Gang project in Gloucestershire 'hugely successful'

Group of young people walking down a street - generic image The Avenger Task Force aims to divert people away from gang membership

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A project set up to help tackle the problem of gang culture in Gloucestershire is to be extended, police have said.

Gloucestershire Police have identified more than 100 extra gang members in the Gloucester area since the scheme started in April.

The Avenger Task Force supports people by diverting them away from gangs and criminal activity.

A review has recommended it is now rolled out across the whole county.

The team works with social services, councils and schools to try to divert young people away from gang involvement.

PC Emma MacDonald said: "We don't have a problem like the big cities do.

"Our problem is in relation to young people who are taken into their lifestyle because they have little else to occupy their time.

"You get a few 'big fish' who come down into the city and look to recruit these young people to do their dirty work for them."

A police review into the project has recommended it is now rolled out across the whole county.

The number of staff working on the project has been doubled since it was introduced.

Ms MacDonald added: "This is a hugely successful intervention project. We've had over 40 referrals since we went live with about 20 in the last couple of weeks, so it's obviously a necessity in the cities.

"Because of where we're located in Gloucestershire, on the M5 corridor close to the cities of Birmingham and Bristol, it's often used as a route through. Or if you decide to settle in Gloucestershire as a criminal or gang member its very easy for you to remain under the radar. "

Police said the task force works with youngsters between the ages of 12 and 17, but it has identified some children "as young as 10 and 11" involved in gang activity.

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