The proportion of suspects on the Metropolitan police’s gangs matrix from minority ethnic groups has increased to nearly nine in 10, according to the force’s own figures.
The data revealed after a question by Sian Berry, the London assembly member for the Green party, showed that 89% of the 3,362 individuals on the Met’s gangs list as of May 2018 were from black or minority ethnic groups. In October 2016, 87% of suspects on the database were from ethnic minority groups.
The increase has come as the numbers on the matrix overall have fallen – there are now about 450 fewer individuals on the database than there were in October 2017 – suggesting they have taken more white people off the list than people from other groups.
This month a report by Amnesty International UK identified the matrix as part of a “racialised” war on gangs, triggered by the Conservative government after the riots in 2011, that stigmatised black youngsters and violated human rights.
The findings showed that of those on the matrix, 78% were black and 9% from other ethnic minorities. This compared with Met figures stating that 27% of those behind violence in London were black.
The gangs matrix is a database of suspected gang members, and those seen as being at risk of becoming embroiled in gang violence. Police say it helps to thwart violence, but Amnesty claimed the Met was stigmatising young black men for the type of music they listen to, their social media behaviour, and who they socialised with.
“The police are supposed to have been reviewing the gangs matrix and yet the latest figures show that the disproportionality is getting worse, and that’s worrying,” Berry said.
“We spoke to the police last week about this at the police and crime committee in the assembly, and the police keep saying to us that most knife violence is not gang related: a lot is just young people fighting and having knives and using those knives.
“It’s essentially unhelpful when we are talking about restoring confidence in the police [and] young people’s willingness to engage with the police, and if they are being put on a database of suspects that’s not going to help.”
Stafford Scott, advocacy officer at the civil rights charity The Monitoring Group, said he was not surprised by the increase. “It’s clear that the gangs matrix is a tool for racial profiling,” he said.
“It’s not looking at serious youth violence, it’s not looking at the most dangerous or organised gangs, it’s just about criminalising and stereotyping various sections of the community. And the latest figures, plus the deaths of young kids out there, proves that it’s unfit for purpose.”
The Met has been contacted for comment.