Glasgow gang project leads to cut in violent crime

Scheme sees 400 gang members sign up to a pledge of non-violence, with knife-carrying down by almost 60%

A project to combat gang culture in Glasgow has significantly reduced violence in parts of the city, according to police.

Since the Community Initiative to Reduce Violence (CIRV) was launched in the city's East End in 2008, 400 gang members have signed up and reduced their violent offending by 46%.

Those who have taken part in the most intensive programmes have cut their offending by 73%. Knife-carrying among participants has dropped by almost 60%, and there has been a 25% drop in violent offending among gang members in areas of the city where the CIRV does not yet operate.

The project is modelled on a scheme set up in Boston, USA, in 1996, and was launched by Strathclyde police's violence reduction unit. It targets the gang as a whole, not just individuals, and uses a combination of enforcement and engagement with the backing of various agencies, including social services and community groups.

Launching the latest report on the CIRV programme in Glasgow, Karyn McCluskey of Stratchlyde police said the figures were encouraging, but there was still a long way to go.

"Gang violence hasn't stopped," she said. "It's been a problem for Glasgow for years and it won't go away overnight. We've made inroads into tackling it, but the key now is keeping up momentum. If we can look back in 10, 20 years and still see a reduction, then we'll know this has worked."

The programme has been operating in the east and north of the city, and there are plans to expand it to other areas and to make it part of everyday business for Strathclyde police. Other forces are looking at the scheme.

There are thought to be about 76 gangs operating in the east and north of Glasgow alone, with about 1,000 members.

McCluskey said police had identified 3,500 young men across Glasgow who were involved in some way in group offending. Knives are the weapon of choice: a person is three times as likely to die in a stabbing in Scotland than in the rest of Britain, and there are 20,000 hospital admissions each year north of the border for serious facial injuries.

At the core of the CIRV programme are "call-ins", where known gang members are invited to attend a session at Glasgow sheriff court. Family members, police and medics detail the human cost of gang culture and the participants are invited to sign a pledge to put down their weapons and work with the programme.

Those who sign up are supported by a variety of agencies who work on their employability and physical and emotional wellbeing. They are then encouraged to take the message back to other gang members.

There have been 10 call-ins since 2008, and of the 473 gang members who have attended, 400 have signed up to a pledge of non-violence.

"It is a really powerful intervention. It is amazing how many of them are motivated to change," said McCluskey. "They were crying in the back of the courtroom when the mums [stood] up. You could hear a pin drop.

"These are guys that can't sit still. Some have huge problems, they don't care about anybody, and they were absolutely silent. They are told, 'You have a choice now. You can choose to get out of this, to be part of society or we can make life very difficult for you.'"

Scotland's justice secretary, Kenny MacAskill, praised the work of the CIRV. "Clearly there are no quick fixes and we must continue to do all we can to persuade youngsters involved in gangs, or on the cusp of gang membership, to think again about their chosen path in life," he said.

"Over the coming year, we will build on these positive results and continue to steer young people who are involved in gangs away from the acts of violence that ruin lives."


Kirsty Scott

The GuardianTramp

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