Police Gangbusters Show How to Cut Violent Crime by 60% ; A Unit Set Up after the Gun Killing of Teenager Agnes Is the Remarkable Blueprint for the Met's Battle against Gangs. Crime Editor Justin Davenport Joins Them on Patrol
Davenport, Justin, The Evening Standard (London, England)
[broken bar] HE routine phone call to police reported three youths on bikes acting suspiciously in the street. But when officers in a patrol car got there they were met with a volley of shots from a handgun.
The shooting in Hackney is a stark example of the frightening rise of London's armed teenage gangs.
Scotland Yard estimates the capital now has more than 250 active gangs with a membership of about 4,800, mostly teenagers or young men.
The Hackney police gangs unit is at the front line of the violence and routinely patrols the streets where the gun attack took place last month.
Inspector Russ Joao heads a group of 11 officers in a unique collaboration with Hackney council and other officials to combat gangs. The initiative, set up after the machinegun murder of 16- year-old Agnes Sina-Inakoju in 2010, is the remarkable blueprint for the Met's new drive against gang culture.
In the six months after its launch, gang violence fell by 59 per cent and reports of gang-related gun and knife crime were down by more than 60 per cent.
Last year police seized 65 firearms and in the past two years 200 gang members have been jailed. The initiative has led to Hackney recording the biggest fall in serious youth violence of any London borough.
The unit, called the Integrated Gangs Intervention Project, works by first offering gang members a way out of violence and crime and then -- if they refuse -- they are warned that they face relentless targeting and arrest.
Mr Joao describes it as a kind of "lawful harassment", saying: "We go after them for whatever we can legally get them for. It's like a dog constantly snapping at their heels -- because there is no other option."
Hackney has at least 23 known and active gangs, of which six to seven are considered high-risk and dangerous.
The police unit has a list of 190 individuals who are the focus of work either to divert them from crime or harass them if they refuse to engage.
Each receives a letter with a phone number and an offer to call, though few take it up immediately. The list is divided into categories -- high, medium and low risk -- and the unit focuses on those considered most dangerous.
There are 50 in the borough, most with convictions for violence or possession of firearms. They are mainly aged between 18 and 25 and are not in education, employment or training. Some have no convictions -- but intelligence identifies them as senior gang members. Lack of a criminal record can mean witnesses are too frightened to give evidence against them. All are thought to have access to guns.
Every two weeks the 50 so-called "nominals" are the subject of a meeting to discuss new intelligence or decide the next action against them.
A routine meeting attended by the Standard last week was revealing. Also represented were the police, council and other agencies including detectives from the Trident task force. It heard the latest reports of gang violence, with details of stabbings, shootings and property damage -- barely any of it reported officially to police.
Council, probation and housing officials work alongside the police at smart but anonymous offices in the heart of Hackney.
All sides say the multiagency approach means much easier communication amid efforts to intervene with young people, help families in dealing with gang members and liaise on everyday issues such as bail conditions and pre-sentence reports. …