Young People’s involvement in serious youth violence including drug distribution has links to organized crime and other risk areas, for example child sexual exploitation. It is recognized as a key area of safeguarding.
Young people involved in Serious Youth Violence are often vulnerable individuals who can be both perpetrators and victims of harm.
Work is required to prevent children/young people from being involved in organised crime in the first place and to safeguard children/young people at risk or already involved in gang activity.
Gangs tend to consist of young people who can be as young as 10 years old and are geographically specific. For the most part, gangs use a continually evolving range of popular social media sites & apps – Snapchat, Facebook, YouTube, Whatsapp, Twitter amongst others to communicate. The videos and photos posted may just be about their lives, but frequently include documentation of crimes they want to brag about. The sites are also used to convey threats and intimidate. The threats exchanged online create a new cause for offline violence as gang members settle disagreements that started online.
The majority of gang members are male, although there are a number of female gang members or female gangs. Girls are more likely to be subservient in the predominantly male gangs, often being used to carry or stash weapons and drugs.
In some localities female members of gangs are often on the receiving end of violence and extortion and their relationships with other gang members tend to be abusive.
Initiation rituals are sometimes based on sexual violence, with female members of their own gang, or more often, on the female members of a rival gang.
Very few incidents of sexual violence by gang members are reported, with girls extremely reluctant to identify their attackers and often intimidated and threatened not to talk.
The majority of children do not become violent and those that do, tend not to become violent in a short space of time. For the latter, their behaviour represents many years of [increasingly] anti- social and aggressive acts, with aggressive habits learned early in life often the foundation for later behaviour. Where a child succeeds at low-level anti-social acts, such as verbal abuse and bullying, violating rules and being disruptive, s/he may feel emboldened to perpetrate increased violence. However, any public discussion around serious youth violence should contain messages that reassure the public and build confidence, i.e. that the vast majority of young people contribute positively towards society.
Professionals in the London Borough of Hillingdon take Serious Youth Violence and the vulnerability of young people very seriously and take a zero tolerance approach. There is a close partnership working Early Intervention Team (EIT), who have a number of Targeted Programmes for young people to engage with and offer parental support/guidance. Close links with the Youth Offending Service(YOS), Police, Health and Education and voluntary services are most positive.
An updated LSCB policy is currently being finalised, which will support professionals to identify and risk assess young people at risk or involved with Serious Youth Violence and who are vulnerable. This will be posted on the website as soon as it is available.