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Sanctuary Training’s Gang Awareness Trainer, Bobby Martin, explains the vital role social workers play, amongst other agencies, to effectively tackle gang activity.

Gangs; how serious is the problem in our inner cities and beyond? Is the problem that of gangs or the identification of gangs? Is it possible to identify what is not known or understood? All of these are reasonable questions to ask in light of the media and social attention this topic generates. 

The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) has estimated some 250 active gangs in London, yet the MPS Trident Gang Command only addresses some 50+ gangs, which asks the question; what about the other 80%?

It is therefore important that social workers engage in the multi-agency effort to address this problem from a position of ‘knowledge’ on par and equal with other partners, particularly as many of those involved as victims and perpetrators (sometimes both), are, or have been, in the care of social services. 

It is important that professionals improve their understanding of the diverse cultures that can play out in youth gang culture. This includes an understanding of the complexities of ethnic, racial, social and geographic culture; one hat does not fit all. 

There are schemes being piloted by the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime, such as Operation Shield. This is being piloted in three London boroughs (Haringey, Lambeth and Westminster) but was challenged by Hackney as they do not believe it would work in their borough. Again, this poses the questions; what does work? And who is doing it right? 

It is only by addressing some of the uncomfortable truths that young and often disenfranchised people face, while looking at some of our practices and in some cases ‘unconscious biases’, that we can begin to come up with sustainable solutions to an increasing problem amongst a growing number of our young people. 

Bobby Martin was featured in the BBC documentary series ‘The Met: Policing London, Episode 1’, on Monday, 8 June, focusing on the Mark Duggan inquiry and the rise of gang crime in Central London. View Episode 1on BBC iPlayer.

Bobby leads Sanctuary Training’s one-day Gang Awareness course, delivering greater awareness of gang culture for all social care professionals. For course information or to book, visit Sanctuary Training’s website or call 0333 7000 028. 

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