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The Modern Gangs Of The UK

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Street gangs have long been a national concern for the United Kingdom, they became notorious around 1870, with mass media reportings on the crimes they committed, however gangs have not always been a problem within the UK as gangs can be traced back to the 18th century (McDonald, 2010). The modern gangs of the UK are believed to have started with the ‘yardies’, a group of jamaican gangsters who arrived in the UK in the mid 1870’s and who brought their violence and their gun culture with them. Transforming the way gangs protect themselves and their drug deals, even to this day. This essay will look at some theories in why people join gangs and the violence surrounding gangs and then look at some ways in which the government is responding in an attempt to stop gang violence from getting out of control in major cities.

Social disorganisation

Thrasher (1927) found that “gangland represents a geographically and socially interstitial area in the city”. This means that social orgaised theory focuses on the crimes that happen in the cities. This theory mainly focuses on such things like deteriatin of neighbourhoods, the lack of social control and gangs (siegel, 2010). The average age range of gang members is between 12-24 years old (Berelowitz & Firmin, 2008). The reason to why such young age ranges are getting caught up in gang activity could be because of the deterioration of the neighbourhood around the and they feel that they do not have to get involved within the community as well as not having any pride of the area in which the live, this drives them into gang related activities and possible violence between rival groups (Siegel, 2010). However research indicates that despite most people join gangs as juveniles a high number leave when they hit the adolescence stage of life(Thornberry Huizinga and Loeber, 2004).

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Stain theory

Strain theory suggests that people commit crimes when they feel that there are certain social aspirations that they feel that they can not reach, for instance financial issues, a jouvernial might see a known gang member who is financially better of than they are and that might draw them into being in that gang, which in turn then leads them into dealing or trafficking drugs, thinking they can be like that person (Featherstone & Deflem, 2003). Sonder (1996) believes that the financial gaines around gangs and the drug business within them are a key point to why a lot of people join gangs, and not for the violence that comes with it.

Young et al. (2007) believed that people who had a lack of support within their family at home or had experienced domestic abuse are those most likely to join gangs as they look for a sense of belonging from their peers. Young suggests that it is this harsh parenting and lack of support that can lead to children having a more aggressive behaviour towards life. This can be seen within gang culture as many gang related crimes do involve violent and aggressive behaviour. A majority of the violence committed by gangs is usually over one of two things, either over drugs/financial payments or over territory that they ‘own’ and that another gang has trespassed on (Lemos,2004). The violence over drugs trade can be related back to the financial part of strain theory because if the gang loses money through their drugs trade, then they lose their financial aspect of the gang, and why many people joined.

Social learning theory

The social learning theory suggests that people commit crimes because that is all they know or what they have been brought up to know, this links in closely with differential association theory, which suggests that people learn their attitudes by over exposure to people within their community with that specific attitude and this can lead young people into joining gangs as they to might develop the same attitude (Walsh & Hemmens, 2008).

Then once in the gang they could be exposed to more levels of violence, from members that condone the use of violence and then the new members of the gang could see violence as an acceptable thing and that if they are violent themselves, they might be accepted and respected more. A study by Battin-pearson et al. (1998) also stated that being a member within a gang an individual is more likely to get involved in acts of violence, especially the gangs that mostly consists of youth members. The amount of gang members carrying weapons within cities of the UK has increased over many years, however many of them do not intend to use them as a aggressive weapon, it was reported that most gang member only carry weapons for means of self defence (85%) if they are attacked by a rival gang or simply as fashion statement(Lemos, 2004). It is because of these reasons the government has started campaigns throughout london and other cities across the UK to raise awareness and prevent people carrying offensive weapons, such as the “mayor of london weapons initiative” this is a campaign to ban replica and air weapons as they have been increasingly used in gang related crimes(lemos, 2004). As Well as government campaigns there are numerous other campaigns throughout the country in a attempt to stop people joining gangs and causing violence, an example of this is stephen french, one of the most notorious gangsters in liverpool, has been campaigning as an anti-gun campaigner in an attempt to stop gun crime after his real life events. It is believed that younger people are more likely to listen to people who have had experience in gangs than listening to the police, especially in more economically deprived parts of the UK.

In more recent years, the problems of gangs have been spreading out of large cities, suchs and london and liverpool, and into more suburban areas. Moving across county lines helps gangs expand drug distribution and gives them more money making opportunities, however this could cause problems with local gangs that are already in the area and could lead to violence between two gangs. Research and surveys have shown that knife crime and youth violence is increasing across the UK, mostly within cities such as London. In 2016/17 there was a 24 percent increase in knife crime from the previous year. Since 2012 there has also been a 23.8 percent increase in gun related crime (Waddell and Jones,2018). This statistic however takes into account the gun crimes where the weapons in use turned out to be replica guns. A way that the Metropolitan police tackles gun crime is they allow people to voluntarily hand in guns within their possession, in 2017 the met ran a programme for two weeks know as a “gun surrender”, in which time they seized 350 firearms (Police and crime committee, 2018), however these guns might not have been used in gang violence but it does take them off the streets so they can not be used in future crimes. The met has set up a specialised team to tackle youth gun crime known as trident, they specifically tackle gun crimes from intelligence of when a gun in used to responding to shooting incidents, trident also carry out prevention techniques, such as carrying out school programs that tries to get the young kids to understand the bad sides of gangs and gang violence, in a effort to prevent the young people from joining gangs (Police and crime committee, 2018).

Lemons (2004) and Freedman (2002) believe that gang violence as well as the amount of gang members carrying weapons has increased as the amount of violence that is shown on TV and in different forms of media such as video games has increase, as to the younger generation this is seen as more acceptable as they see it everyday, however there has been no research results to show that this is the case as all young people have access to this form of media and no link has been found to why it can only affect some people and not others.

In 2007 the government launched a £1.5 million programme known as the “tackling gangs action program” which specifically focused on tackling gang related firearms incidents, while the program was in place there was in decrease of firearms cases by 51% (Dawson,2008), this can be backed up by police records which shows the increase of gun crime from 2007 until 2013. As Well as this program the government will continue to deport members of gangs that they arrest who are not UK citizens in a effort to stop the violence, in 2017 the government will also extend the police powers to tackle gang members between 14-17 years of age as well as reviewing and making changes to licensing agencies to make it more difficult for legal firearms to fall into the hands of gangs(serious violence strategy, 2018).

Government legislation being reinforced by the police alone will not be able to prevent gang violence and gang crime. The government are taking the right actions in a effort to prevent gang violence by tightening legislation and delivering more campaigns to make people more aware of the problem, as well as setting up programmes in schools in the most affected areas to try to prevent people at the age where gangs target to recruit them in a effort to deter young people from joining gangs to stop the violence. However with cuts being made to statutory agencies there is no easy way to stop the violence as focusing on one area will only temporarily stop the violence while there is more police presence. The government and many researchers stated in this report believe that the only way to prevent/ decrease the amount of gang violence happening is to target the reasons why young people want to join gangs in the first place.


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