Programme used in Boston and Glasgow, which makes gang members listen to bereaved parents, is launched in London
A programme to persuade young gang members to abandon lives of street violence has been launched in London.
Enfield is the first council in England and Wales to turn to the innovative "call-in" process to deal with its gang problem. The scheme aims to give young known gang members a stark warning about street violence and criminality by making them listen to parents who have lost their children in gang-related violence, ex-gang members, community leaders and surgeons forced to choose between saving the life of an elderly heart-attack victim or that of a young gangster, sliced beyond recognition with a blade.
The scheme was first tried in Boston in the US and then delivered in Glasgow as part of the Community Initiative to Reduce Violence project.
"In common with many parts of London, Enfield has some problems with gangs but we are saying 'this ends now' and we'll be leaving the members of these gangs in absolutely no doubt what awaits them if they continue with their current behaviour," said Christine Hamilton, Enfield council's cabinet member for community wellbeing and public health.
"We want to do everything that we can to encourage these young people to mend their ways and play an active and productive part in society, but we'll have no hesitation in tracking them down and prosecuting those responsible for serious anti-social behaviour and criminality."
At the end of the session, the young people are told about the agencies able to help them extract themselves from gang life.
William Graham, who helped Strathclyde police set up the initial "call-in" sessions and advised Enfield council, said the scheme ensured that "those that want to get out are helped [while] those that don't will be targeted by the police and put away".
"The call-in basically tells these young people that if you remain in a gang you will end up in prison or dead ? but as well as providing a stark warning it also offers a way out to those who want it," said Graham. "This approach targets the whole gang rather than an individual and it has worked very successfully in Glasgow."
The risk of becoming a crime victim in Britain today is at a 30-year low but this summer's riots in several English cities put gangs back in the headlines and on the political agenda.
Last year, a joint report by the prisons, police and probation watchdogs cautioned against exaggerating the power of gangs ? but also against ignoring them.
At least half of the 27 murders of teenagers in London in 2007 were gang-related, according to the Metropolitan police. Officers in Liverpool and Manchester have said in the past that 60% of shootings are linked to gangs.
Chief Superintendent Simon Laurence, Enfield's borough commander, said: "Violent crimes often affect our most challenged individuals who inevitably experience a range of social and personal issues. Our aim is to intervene before things spiral out of control, show young people the consequences of their actions and signpost them to those who can help."
The government recently introduced so-called "gang injunctions" in England and Wales to restrict the movements of people accused of gang membership. Similar to antisocial behaviour orders, the new powers are also designed to protect the individual by forcing them into a mentoring programme and can be used to ban people from wearing certain colours used by gangs to signify membership.