It Can Be Stopped

It Can Be Stopped: A proven blueprint to stop gang violence in London and beyond.
28th August 2018

#ItCanBeStopped is our (Centre for Social Justice) latest report on ending gang violence - with 60% of shootings, half of all knife attacks and 29% of all child exploitation attributable to gang activity, we think #ItCanBeStopped and we need to get this right. The report is based on what has worked in Glasgow, Boston (USA) and Cincinnati (USA) cities that dramatically reduced their gang violence as a result. Sadly London has not and the report recommends that this needs to happen now and sets out a proven blueprint to stop gang violence in London and beyond.

Foreword from the Rt Hon Iain Duncan Smith MP for Chingford & Woodford Green.

In 2009, the Centre for Social Justice provided the Government with a blueprint to reduce gang membership and to make the streets safer. Our approach was based upon the tried, tested, and approved model of Group Violence Intervention (GVI). This model has been successfully applied across the world: pioneered in Boston and implemented from Cincinnati to Glasgow, GVI has shown further success in 77 different cities.

In our original report, Dying to Belong, we highlighted these case studies of exemplary practice and drew upon their strengths in designing a plan for Britain. We acknowledged that this issue would not disappear without a concerted and perpetual effort on the behalf of the Government. Despite the findings and recommendations of that report, there has been little progress towards tackling the issue of gang membership and exploitation in many parts of the UK.

This is unacceptable. As we stumble over implementation challenges, that are largely of our own making, our young people live in dangerous conditions, subject to the pressures of gang membership and exploitation. An estimated additional 20,000 people have joined a gang since Dying to Belong was published, nearly a decade ago, bringing the total number of gang members to 70,000. In this time, 700 young people have been fatally stabbed or shot. We cannot afford to wait any longer. If the Government earnestly believes that their first duty is to protect the public, then they need to act immediately and effectively.

There is a clear, empirically supported alternative. The Government needs to take ownership of this issue and confront the reality of life for gang members. Since we published Dying to Belong, the public health approach of GVI has seen success in Glasgow. This Scottish city, once dubbed the “murder capital” of Europe, has seen a 46 per cent fall in violent offences, a 73 per cent fall in gang in-fighting and an 85 per cent fall in weapon possession. These life changing results are largely credited to the ‘pulling levers’ theory behind GVI — a zero-tolerance enforcement message credibly paired with easy access to support services, offering young people a chance to get off the streets and into jobs and education.

It has been depressing to attend meetings on what has been described as London’s epidemic of gang violence to hear different people refer vaguely to the system being operated in Glasgow. This operation was referenced in our earlier report and it seems as quickly forgotten. That earlier report set out a template on what to do to take back control of our streets yet few authorities have used it comprehensively. Such a programme, as those in Glasgow will tell you, relies on support on the ground from local organisations, getting the young people out of the gangs.

I am once again inspired by the amazing work of some of our grassroots charities. Throughout this report, we draw on exemplary practice from youth zones, referral services, mentoring practices, and community task forces. People in their local community are taking ownership, acknowledging that young people dying on our streets as a result of gangs is never acceptable. As we set out in this report, many organisations and much invaluable activity is already underway, such as London Gang Exit, Gangs Unite, the Sea Cadets, Key4Life, and Growing Against Violence, to name a few. In this report, we draw upon their successes to suggest a coordinated response to the gang epidemic.

Britain’s gangs are a product of its pathways to poverty. Young people born into disadvantaged and marginalised communities, with little hope of improving their life chances, turn to gangs for a sense of identity and belonging. It is time that we provided them with a credible alternative.

Rt Hon Iain Duncan Smith MP
Chair of the Centre for Social Justice


To read the report in full, please see the link below: