In certain parts of the country a lot of the crime taking place is related to gangs. This is especially true of London, but also other cities – Manchester, Birmingham, Sheffield, Leeds, Liverpool, Wolverhampton. Gangs are a significant cause of “anti social behaviour” – noise, vandalism, graffiti, general yobbery. However, they are also a major source of more serious crime.
The Home Secretary Theresa May said of an analysis after the 2011 riots:
In London, one in five of those arrested in connection with the riots were known gang members. We also know that gang members carry out half of all shootings in the capital and 22% of all serious violence. And even these shocking statistics may underestimate the true total. Similar figures for the riots were recorded by West Yorkshire Police, while Nottinghamshire had only a slightly lower proportion.
She decided to do something about it. In doing so she has worked with Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary – as finding jobs for young people who have taken a wrong turn is obviously relevant to the challenge. A programme was established called Ending Gang and Youth Violence, with a brief to stop young people joining criminal gangs and to ensure those who were already members left.
Penalties were toughened allowing the police to intervene earlier. Crime mapping has identified where the gangs are. There was also £4 million in small grants to 200 community projects. Over the past year several of the new Police and Crime Commissioners have got involved – not least in the pursuit of “joined up government” where the police, local councils, job centres and the NHS work together. The jargon of “partnership working” and “information sharing” is familiar – the reality often less so.
At this point the cynics shrug and double lock their doors.
Yet the good news is that an analysis published today suggests that substantial progress has been made. It offers plenty of comments from those working in their communities that the EGYV programme has been effective – as well as ideas to improve it.
There are also some figures for youth crime in the areas where the programme has been applied. Inflicting GBH without intent, by 10-19 year-olds, reduced in areas of London covered by the programme from 518 in 2011/12 to 387 in 2012/13. That is a a fall of 25 per cent, massive for just one year. In non-London areas covered by the programme it was even sharper – a fall in the same period from 885 to 592, which is 33 per cent.
The report has plenty of caveats. The most important is that there has been a sharp fall in knife crime generally – of 15 per cent. Those convicted of rioting in 2011 tended to face stiff prison sentences: that has taken many criminals out of circulation even before any deterrent impact is considered. So a fall of crime could have been expected anyway.
On the other hand, it is early days and some of the benefit of the EGYV measures will not yet have been shown – in that respect the early findings may underestimate the success.
What of the politics of all this? The aims are not contentious, to a large extent the policies and measures are not either. However I don’t believe it is a matter of chance that the Conservatives are succeeding where Labour failed. Accountability and transparency are working. The state is applying greater toughness in upholding the law, which is its job. Then there is the Big Society aspect – voluntary organisations, including the churches, are being given a greater role in some of the wider social problems.
Also teenagers are finding greater obligation and reward to achieve high educational standards at school and to seek a job when they leave school.
This is about delivery – something lacking during the Labour years of sofa government, spin, targets and gimmicks.