Council gang unit reducing violence

Cllr Sophie Linden

Cllr Sophie Linden - Credit: Archant

Council figures show gun crime is down by more than half since the introduction of the Integrated Gangs Unit (IGU) in the borough.

From 2009 to 2010, the year before the IGU was established, there were 182 gun-related crimes, compared to 67 in 2013 and 2014 – a 63.2 per cent reduction.

The number of guns fired is also down by 80 per cent, from 65 to 13.

Figures also show offences where a knife has been used to injure a victim under 24 have gone from 218 to 65.

The unit was the first in the country and comprises police officers, probation officers, young people’s services and a Department of Work and Pensions worker as well as voluntary organisations which work together to reduce gang-related crime in Hackney.

Steve Bending, head of safer communities and ex-borough commander of the Metropolitan Police, said: “We share information between all of the different teams to build a much better understanding around who committed the crime and most of the time, what the reason was. Because of that, we can put in place a plan of action around reducing the tension.

“This could be visiting gang members who we think are vulnerable or those who could become involved in gang activity and because we have identified those responsible, police can take action. We now have a much more holistic picture.”

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The council has invested £740,000 and successfully bid for £498,000 per annum for the next four years from the Mayor’s Office to put into the scheme.

Steve said: “There is a risk of the violence from the street gangs, which varies from gang to gang. Some are relatively small and just Hackney focused, and there are others that are far more sophisticated that have drug dealing capability that goes out into the Home Counties – but the thing we are focused on really is the violence.

“We aren’t naïve. Gangs still exist and the challenge still exists but we are looking at new approaches such as early intervention to ensure the risk is reduced.”

As well as working with 150 gang members at any one time, the council is the first in the country to pilot an early intervention scheme with young people.

Steve said: “These young people are not in gangs but show the same risk factors that an existing member did years ago, so we are working with them and their family to provide them with opportunity so risk is reduced in later years.”

Deputy Mayor, Cllr Sophie Linden added: “We see the rest of our work at the council as feeding into our anti gang strategy, such as working with young people and their families, trying to get people into work and also our schools and our massive educational achievements, making sure that young people have high aspirations – so there is the gang unit but there are also other elements.”