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This resource is from the Committees section. This is report 5 of the 3 May 2007 meeting of the Co-ordination and Policing Committee, and provides a brief overview of the current pan London gangs profile, emerging issues, the MPS and Partnership response to gun, gang and knife criminality and proposed future developments.

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MPS Response to Guns, Gangs and Knives in London

Report: 5
Date: 3 May 2007
By: Assistant Commissioner, Specialist Crime Directorate on behalf of the Commissioner


This report provides a brief overview of the current pan London gangs profile, emerging issues, the MPS and Partnership response to gun, gang and knife criminality and proposed future developments. Particular detail is provided in relation to SCD8 Trident and Trafalgar.

A. Recommendations


  1. Members note the current MPS activity in tackling gun, gang and knife criminality.
  2. Members note the future MPS response to tackling gun, gang and knife criminality.

B. Supporting information


1. Since January 2007, there have been seven teenagers murdered in London. This is perceived as being linked to a growing gun, gang and weapon culture.

2. The purpose of this report is to update and inform members of the MPA as to the current intelligence picture, emerging issues, the current MPS response and the future responses of the MPS.

Current Intelligence Profile

3. Gangs and group offending is perceived as being a growing threat in London. Consequently, the MPS compiled a profile of gangs in London in 2005/06 which has been recently reviewed and updated. Since this work was completed, there has been an increased focus on gang activity within the MPS and with partners that has helped to increased intelligence and knowledge around this issue.

4. The current profile is based predominately on police information and intelligence. Significant intelligence sits within other agencies, such as the Youth Offending Teams (YOTs), Prison and Probation, Health Service and Education Service. This additional intelligence would undoubtedly greatly enhance both the understanding of gangs and group offending, as well as appropriate responses.

5. The MPS, and many partners, currently use the Hallsworth and Young definitions for Peer Group, Gangs and Criminal Networks:

  • Peer Group – a relatively small, unorganised and transient group composed of peers who share the same space and a common history. Involvement in crime will be mostly non-serious in nature and not integral to the identity of the group.
  • Gang – a relatively durable, predominately street based group of people who see themselves (are seen by others) as a discernable group for who crime and violence is integral to the groups identity.
  • Criminal Networks – a group of individuals involved in ongoing criminality for some form of personal gain and which has links to National Intelligence Model Level Two Criminality, or are having a significant impact on the community.

Whilst the MPS is using the above definitions, there is still inconsistency on interpretation. The MPS is currently developing practical applications of these definitions. Partners such as the Youth Justice Board (YJB) and National Offenders Management Service (NOMS) have indicated their intention to utilise the definitions once agreed.

6. This report addresses the MPS response to gang issues and does not address peer groups or criminal networks, but recognises the links between the three levels of criminality.

7. The current gangs profile identifies 171 gangs in London. However, it is suspected that the actual number could be greater as this is based purely on police intelligence.

8. The majority of gangs consist of males (90%), however there are three female gangs and females participate in gangs in other ways, not strictly associated with the definition that the MPS uses. In addition, female gangs may not follow the same structure as male gangs, and therefore are not identified in the same way. There is evidence that sisters and girlfriends of gang members are used to mind weapons.

9. About 15% of shootings are linked to nightclub, bar or music venues.

10. Whilst 75% of all victims of firearm homicides and shootings and 79% of all suspects come from the African/Caribbean community, it is important to note that only 50% of the identified gangs come from this community. Current resources, particularly from the voluntary and community sector involved in intervention and prevention, are almost exclusively focused towards the African/Caribbean community. Support and encouragement needs to be provided to other communities affected by gun, gang and weapon criminality.

11. MPS intelligence systems are not configured to identify whether these are newly arrived migrants or British born.

12. The different cultural make up of gangs means that each one operates in a different manner, consequently each gang needs a bespoke plan to facilitate proper engagement.

13. Over a quarter of the gangs identified are believed to have between 21 to 50 members, with a further 18% estimated to have over 50 members. It is difficult to confirm these figures as individuals may claim to be in a gang for the apparent kudos it gives, whilst in reality they are not a functioning member of the gang.

14. The age of both victim and offenders involved and affected by Trident related gang and group offending has continued to decrease. In 2004, the peak age for victims was 24, by 2006 this age had decreased to 19, with a substantial number of individuals being much younger than this. For Trident suspects charged with murder or shooting, the same ages are mirrored with a decrease from 24 to 19 years, with a substantial increase in the number of individuals who are younger than this.

15. The increase in the number of individuals that are victims of Trident murders and shootings under the age of 20 is detailed as follows:

  • 2003 – 31 Trident Murders and Shootings,
  • 2004 – 39 Trident Murders and Shootings,
  • 2005 – 82 Trident Murders and Shootings,
  • 2006 – 79 Trident Murders and Shootings.

This represents a substantial increase in the proportion of teenage victims of shooting. In 2003, they formed 16% of all victims, in 2006 they formed 31%.

16. Gangs are typically chaotic in nature, and are involved in a wide range of criminal offences. There has been an increase in most categories of criminal offences in the last year. Of the main five offence types (burglary, criminal damage, robbery theft and handling, and violence against the person), robbery has seen the greatest increase.

Emerging issues relating to gangs

17. Emerging issues that relate to gangs and group offending include the following;

Unwilling victims

18. Trident has identified that 40% of victims who decline to assist with the investigation have a significant Trident connection of some kind. Broadly speaking, they have either already been a victim or a suspect, or they go on to be a victim or suspect.

Witness Protection

19. Many victims and witnesses fear the criminal justice system. Trident is a heavy user of MPS witness protection facilities, but current arrangements do not always meet the needs of the individual and their families.

Gang Exit Opportunities

20. There is an increase in gang members indicating a desire to leave the gang environment, who are not prepared to engage with the criminal justice system. There are currently no arrangements available to facilitate this opportunity.

Immigration issues

21. A significant number of individuals arrested by Trident for gun-enabled offences reside in the UK illegally. Many emerging gangs come form new communities, where there is reluctance for victims and witnesses to engage with the criminal justice system partly due to their immigration status.

22. There is an indication from both police intelligence and the voluntary sector addressing gang criminality, that there is an increase in young people with significant post-traumatic stress resulting from witnessing and being involved in significant violent situations prior to arrival in the UK. These young people appear to have a disproportionate negative impact on their peer groups.

23. Dealing with gangs is increasingly complex as each gang is uniquely structured. This is compounded by cultural differences that often influence the formation and operation of the gang.

Wave Trust Research

24. Recently released research released by The Wave Trust, has linked causes of violence to abuse and neglect of children in their first three years of life. Evidence is emerging of the importance of early intervention in these cases. A greater priority should be placed on early intervention supporting children and families at risk.

Current MPS response

Please see Appendix 1

MPS way forward

25. To effectively address the issue of gangs, guns and weapons in London, the MPS needs to do the following:

  • Develop a clear internal governance structure to ensure effective coordination and leadership at NIM levels 1, 2 and 3;
  • Further refine the definitions relating to gang criminality in order to ensure common standards within the MPS and between MPS and Partners;
  • The Guns, Gangs and Weapons Reduction Board is tasked to develop a Memorandum of Understanding in relation to multi-agency responses to gun, gang and weapon criminality;
  • The MPS and its partners continue to develop an understanding of gang related activity and effective responses in the short, medium and long term;
  • That the MPS community engagement processes target those communities suffering significant harm (as defined by ACPO) caused by gun, gang and weapon related criminality.

26. The Five Borough Project is expected to identify effective responses to gang related criminality, both in terms of intelligence, prevention and enforcement.

27. The proposed model to effectively deal with gang criminality is based on a taskforce approach. This would be a Borough led, risk based management programme. It would address the gang holistically, identifying those that require effective criminal justice responses through to those at risk of becoming involved as victims or offenders in the future.

28. By definition, this will require a multi-agency and community response, incorporating responses from across all MPS Business Groups, local CDRPs, Safe Guarding Children Boards, community and voluntary sector organisations working together in the short, medium and long term.

29. The MPS through the Met Intelligence Bureau (MIB) will continue to develop the intelligence picture relating to gang criminality across London. Work will also be undertaken to work with partners in sharing information, intelligence and good practice.

30. The MPS is currently developing performance measurements linked to the Criminal Network Strategy that will identify disruptions linked to gang criminality.

31. MPS Management Board have agreed to the development of a Youth strategy that will be used as the vehicle to drive activity to tackle youth violence and address the risks to young people of becoming victims of crime or being drawn into violent crime offending. This will be achieved through:

  • DAC TP as MPS lead for the MPS Youth Strategy and Chair of the MPS Youth Strategy Board, to oversee the delivery of the MPS Youth Strategy;
  • The formation of an MPS Youth Violence Operations Group, chaired by Commander Violent Crime Directorate, to co-ordinate operational delivery across business groups of the intelligence and enforcement elements of the MPS Youth Strategy;
  • The formation of an MPS Youth Safety Group, chaired by Commander Safer Neighbourhoods, to co-ordinate operational delivery across business groups of the prevention, partnership and community elements of the MPS Youth Strategy
  • In line with recommendations 3 and 4, the formation of a dedicated co-ordinating unit with cross-business group support, to ensure operational delivery of the MPS Youth Strategy.


Association of Chief Police Officers
Borough Intelligence Unit
Borough Operational Command Units
Crime and Disorder Disruption Partnerships
Greater London Authority
Guns, Gangs and Weapons Reduction Board
Independent Advisory Group
Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangement
Mediation and Transformation Service
National Intelligence Model
National Offenders Management Service
Prolific and other Priority Offenders
Tactical Tasking and Coordination Group
University of Central Lancashire
Violent Crime Directorate
Youth Justice Board
Youth Offending Teams

C. Race and equality impact

1. The specific equality and diversity issues relating to this paper are acknowledged. The delivery of a reduction in gun and gang activity is a challenging one for the MPS, however there are structures in place, such as the Trident and Operation Blunt IAGs to mitigate the risks associated with this challenge.

2. In addition, consideration regarding race and equality impact is also discussed in the majority of the operations and projects detailed in this report.

3. Although it currently meets the MPS target for black and minority ethnic police officers, Trident is working with the IAG and Black Police Association to raise the levels of black and minority ethnic police officers still further so that the OCU can be more representative of the black community it primarily serves. Current plans include gaining formal organisational support for positive action in the form of secondments for black and minority ethnic officers during their detective development programme.

4. Specifically, MAPPA, the PPO scheme and the Challenging Wards Programme address race and equality impact via their engagement with local CDRP’s, whilst other operations and projects have specific local engagement with the voluntary and community sectors, for example in the Five Borough Group Offending Project and the Guns, Gangs and Weapons Reduction Board.

D. Financial implications

1. Whilst this report illustrates the MPS current response to guns, gangs and weapons, its purpose is not to go into any detail as to the financial implications of any suggested changes.

2. Any future response within the MPS will be funded from existing MPS budgets.

E. Background papers


F. Contact details

Report author: Toby Streeter and Mike Taylor, MPS.

For more information contact:

MPA general: 020 7202 0202
Media enquiries: 020 7202 0217/18

Supporting material 

The following is available as a PDF document:

Portable Document Format (PDF) files require Adobe Acrobat Reader, available as a free download from Adobe.

Committees > COP > 03 May 07 > MPS Response to Guns, Gangs and Knives in London

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