Riots response led to more gang violence, says CSJ

A Carpetright store burns on Tottenham High Road, in London, after being set on fire by rioters on 6 August 2011 Riots spread across several English cities - such as London, Manchester and Liverpool - in the summer of 2011

The response to last year's riots has led to more violence among some gangs, a think tank says.

A Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) report, to be published on Monday, says the arrest of leading gang members led to chaos in some areas when younger youths filled the power vacuum.

It calls for more support for families and communities to prevent young people joining gangs.

Ministers say a £10m fund is helping to target gangs and "seeing results".

A government spokesman said the coalition's strategy on violence and gangs made clear the problem could not be tackled through police enforcement alone.

The Home Office's report Ending gang and youth violence has already put a focus on early intervention to stop young people becoming involved in gangs as well as providing support to members wanting to break with their past.

The CSJ acknowledged the government strategy "put forward a range of positive initiatives" but says it appeared to be "losing commitment".

"If fully implemented, these are promising first steps. But contributors to this report have told us that this strategy is not translating into the genuine transformation of communities," it said.

The CSJ says many charities have been unaware the cash was available and accuses authorities of a lack of follow-up work with junior gang members.

It highlights a marked increase in the number of girl gang members and a rise in sexual violence within gangs.

'Nobody if you haven't killed'

The Centre for Social Justice was set up by Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, in 2004.

Prime Minister David Cameron promised an "all-out war on gangs and gang culture" following the riots which took hold of many English cities including London, Manchester and Liverpool.

A year on, the think tank asked organisations and charities how they felt gang culture had changed in the light of government response.

Many drew a picture of little or no progress, it says, and "some have even suggested that the problem is becoming worse".

Start Quote

The alarming fact is that many streets across the country are besieged by anarchy and violence”

End Quote Centre for Social Justice report

It says: "Many in Whitehall regard the riots as a random one-off, and mistake the quashing of the disorder as control of the streets. They could not be more wrong.

"The alarming fact is that many streets across the country are besieged by anarchy and violence."

CSJ researchers spoke to people in riot-hit areas who reported a "marked increase" in the violent behaviour of some gangs, because of the removal from the streets of "elders" who had previously imposed a code of behaviour.

Such unwritten codes had meant, for example, that a rival gang member could not be shot while he was with his mother, it says.

The report describes an incident in which a young gang member held a gun to the head of a rival gang member's baby.

The person relating the incident remarked "you're seen as 'a nobody' if you haven't killed someone".

Jermaine Lawlor - a former gang member who now works for a charity - told BBC News the arrest of a gang leader could provoke its members to commit more crimes.

"It's almost like a vacancy is free," he said.

"The leader's not there and depending on what sentence they get, usually the underdogs step up and try to get that position, so there is a need for more crime because crime proves your status."

Youth worker Patrick Regan, who runs the XLP charity in south London and was interviewed by the CSJ for its report, said ministers had adopted a short term approach.

"I'm not going to run a project for six months... It is tough, it is a long haul and it may take a generation," he said.

'Serious social breakdown'

The CSJ says one in five of those arrested so far in London after the riots - 337 suspects - was a known gang member.

Rioting by numbers

A burnt out van on Tottenham High Road, in London, on 7 August 2011
  • Of the 3,051 people brought before the courts by 8 June 2012 for offences related to the England riots, 89% were male and 11% were female
  • Of those 27% were aged 10-17 (juveniles) and a further 26% were aged 18-20
  • Only 6% of those appearing before the courts for the disorder were aged 40 or over

One of the CSJ's central conclusions is that the "drivers of gang culture" need to be addressed, as well as the symptoms.

The report says: "Nearly a year on from the publication of the government's gangs strategy, there is a danger that the enthusiasm for change developed after the riots is being allowed to go cold...

"The surest way of eliminating gangs is to try to ensure that children and young people never want or feel the need to join them.

"To do this we need to tackle deeper issues in our society and seek to nurture and support ever-strong families and stronger communities."

A government spokesman highlighted a network of Young People's Advocates to provide support to victims of gang-related sexual violence and the introduction of gang injunctions for 14-17 year olds.

"There are no quick fixes but we are seeing results. The Crime Survey for England and Wales shows that crime is down by 6%, and police figures show knife crime is down by 9%."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 673.


    There have been comments supporting and empathising with the rioters and gang-culture, maybe not from yourself...

    ...and what solution would you propose? Enlighten me with your clearer understanding.

  • rate this

    Comment number 672.


    52% of rioters were 18-24 and so "grew up" under a Tory regime. Explain that, then explain why Tory policies historically create civil unrest.

  • Comment number 671.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 670.

    Why can we not have a sensible debate without the paranoid McCarthyite idiots trying to ruin it? Are they organised into some kind of antisocial gang too?

  • rate this

    Comment number 669.

    663 TheBladesman

    ' ... people are trying to justify their actions ....'.

    Nope. Not trying to justify them, trying to explain them. Unfortunately too many people think these at the same and their lack of understanding hampers progress towards a solution. Even more of a problem when those people are politicians pandering to 'public opinion'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 668.

    662.markdoncaster to 655. koolkarmauk 'Are you communist?'

    Probably they are, it's the old blame everything on Thatcher or the coalition game because nothing bad happened for 13 yrs under labour (historical revisionism @ its best), in fact the mast majority of rioters were young & grew up under which parties' (who were throwing money at them right left & centre) watch.

  • rate this

    Comment number 667.


    Mark post a link showing Labour sold British Steel, Jaguar, BT, Utility and energy companies etc, etc, can you manage that? Thanks.

  • rate this

    Comment number 666.

    661 Magenta Obscura. " I don't think they came down hard enough on those scum." So you think it was Ok to send somebody to prison for 4 years "for insighting a riot". This is what is wrong with this country, and given that so many of us have now seen evidence of this kind of thing, and a willingness to ignore the truth by those in power, why so many of us are not now loyal to the country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 665.

    As usual with 'think tanks' and 'exgang members' the evidence is pretty thin, and the headline statement is hedged around with 'some evidence' and 'some people think'. Load of tripe.

    The model of senior gang leaders giving leadership smacks a bit of colonial ideas about Indian Chiefs, via the legendary 'Community leaders' and mixed up ideas of Mafia films. ie connivance in crime you can't stop.

  • rate this

    Comment number 664.

    You know who are the posh boys and girls living in a nice area judging by the the comments, they are the ones supporting the rioters.

    Noboby who has been attacked robbed, family member killed, business burnt down or has to live in the same street as them would support these scum, the left wing speaking from their ivory tower again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 663.

    @658.Pete Powell

    Yes I remember the young student from Malaysia who was robbed and assaulted by some yobs pretending to help him.

    It makes me angry that people are trying to justify their actions even implying that they are merely victims of current society.

    I can only assume their naivety is because they have no experience of life.

  • rate this

    Comment number 662.

    655. koolkarmauk

    No it was Labour who sold them to foreigners, you really need to wake up, the tories just unshackled them from being state owned.

    How is privatization evil, how can anybody compete with a state owned company n the money n contracts it will receive, it's not fair or a level playing field on people who set up their own business.

    Are you communist?

  • rate this

    Comment number 661.

    Coming down hard on riotters pushes more of them into crime, what's the point of having laws then? So what are we supposed to do just open up our homes and work places and say come in steal what you like because there's no punishments for you because some leftwing think tank says its against human rights. What next it's ok to murder people, I don't think they came down hard enough on those scum.

  • rate this

    Comment number 660.

    Who would claim Labour sold RR, Jaguar, Brit Steel? The pig ignorance in this country is astonishing - if people can be that deluded about the truth there is little point to democracy with these awful tabloids dominating. What is most disturbing about most Con voters is the degree of factually incorrect information their views are based on, and I say that as somebody who isn't a Labour fan.

  • rate this

    Comment number 659.

    It is a part of Human Nature to belong to a Gang. David Cameron belongs to a gang (Conservative Party) - Others belong to other gangs. Its is a part of life. But, what we need - what we really really need is to educate the "sun reader" clan about DISCIPLINE and RESPECT. a does of National Service wouldn't do many any harm.

  • rate this

    Comment number 658.

    In most of the comments I have read, most of which are the so-called "Editors' Picks", very few of them relate to the victims of the riots. Large gangs, youngsters, small gangs, old folk, and any individual taking part in the riots did it from THEIR choice to break the law. It is the victims I feel sorry for, and couldn't care less about the perpetrators of these crimes against society in general.

  • rate this

    Comment number 657.

    Why does everyone join a gang, GET A LIFE.

  • rate this

    Comment number 656.

    @7 Swamp Puppet
    How can I apply for a job in one of these 'think tanks''

    Well,that should be easy when you consider there at least 109 think tanks pumping out ideas and trying to shape politics, but who sits on them? I wonder if any Joe Public actually influence any of these think tanks?

  • rate this

    Comment number 655.


    What on earth are you going on about? I have no idea because it is nothing to do with any comments I have posted.

    "It s Labour who sold Jaguar,Rolls royce,British steel, .."

    No it wasn't, the Tories SOLD them and you still claim it is lies and spin even though I posted a link with the FACTS.

    It is IRRELEVANT who owns them in context to the evil of privitisation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 654.

    The CSJ has an opinion - it's as biased as all the others. The truth lies in a complex mix of consumerism, inequality, breakdown of the family unit, a liberal justice, tolerance of gangs, globalisation, hot weather, encouragement of drug and alcohol consumption, popularisation of anti-heroes, mob hysteria, etc etc. The CSJ is guilty of chasing cheap publicity by over-simplifying a serious problem.


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