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Saturday, 13 August 2011

Taking On Our Gangs: Man Who Cleaned Up New York Taken On As Cameron's Adviser

America's most fearsome policeman has been appointed David Cameron's top adviser on gang warfare.

Supercop: Bill Bratton pictured when he was chief of the Los Angeles Police Department in 2009.

Bill Bratton, who introduced zero-tolerance policing to New York and turned around crime-ridden Los Angeles, will help ministers draw up plans to tackle gang culture in Britain's cities.

Yesterday the Prime Minister unveiled the first of his plans to tackle gang violence.

He said injunctions which let courts ban gang members from gathering in certain places or at certain times of day, which currently apply only to adults, will be extended to children.

Ministers were planning to roll out a pilot scheme covering 14 to 17-year-olds later this year. Now that will be rushed forward and will cover more parts of the country.

Mr Cameron also announced yesterday that he has set up a review into what can be done to stop gangs. Mr Bratton, 63, will be a major contributor to this review, which will report back in October.

As New York's police commissioner in the 1990s, the 'supercop' introduced a ground-breaking policy under which officers cracked down hard on even the smallest infringements to deter people from carrying out bigger crimes.

This led to major crimes falling 39 per cent, with murders down 50 per cent, during his time in charge.

Another crucial factor was his introduction of sophisticated data analysis techniques. At weekly meetings, officers tracked crime patterns on computers so they could target problem areas.

Mr Bratton was forced to resign from the force in 1996 as city officials investigated the propriety of a book deal he had made while in office.

But he took over the scandal-plagued Los Angeles police in 2002, and again helped turn the city around.

Under his leadership, crime there dropped for six years in a row, including a 24 per cent fall in homicides which relieved the city of its title as America's murder capital.

Just a month into the job, he was confronted by demonstrators angry at the deaths of two teenagers in a car which crashed after police had shot at it.

When the protesters demanded, 'Control your officers', Mr Bratton simply replied: 'Control your kids.'

He was similarly blunt when he addressed an audience at the First African Methodist Episcopal Church, telling them: 'Wake up! You have a cancer that is eating your city. Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee!'

And when the LA city council refused to give him 320 more officers, Mr Bratton went over its head and called for a public referendum, accusing councillors of being out of touch with the daily mayhem on the streets.

In 2006, when in Britain for a conference, he told the BBC's Today programme he was 'amazed' how little the UK public and media appreciated how hard their police were working to keep them safe.

'Shame on you, the public of this country,' he said.

In the same interview, he backed the publishing of paedophiles' addresses, saying: 'My support goes to anything to protect our children, not sex paedophiles.'

And when liberal academics questioned whether his zero-tolerance policy was responsible for falling crime, he derided them in a magazine article, calling them 'ivory tower academics… many of whom have never sat in a patrol car, walked or bicycled a beat, lived in or visited regularly troubled violent neighbourhoods'.

Zero-tolerance: Metropolitan Police officers prepare to carry out a raid on a property on the Churchill Gardens estate in Pimlico, London.

Pitched battles: Riot police block a street in Hackney, east London, during riots on Monday. The government believes gangs were behind much of the violence.

Yesterday the Prime Minister said gangs had 'blighted life on their estates with gang-on-gang murders and unprovoked attacks on innocent bystanders'.

He added: 'In the last few days there is some evidence that they have been behind the co-ordination of the attacks on the police and the looting that has followed. I want [putting a stop to this] to be a national priority.'

Mr Cameron said the review would also learn from two anti-gang initiatives in Glasgow and Boston, Massachusetts.

Strathclyde Police set up a specialist unit called the Gangs Task Force in March 2008 to identify, find and arrest gang members involved in crime.

And a Community Initiative to Reduce Violence was established in December 2008 to break the cycle of deprivation which led young men to join gangs, by providing them with other options.

It was modelled on the so-called Boston Ceasefire, established in 1996 and since replicated in other cities across America.

This provided youths with services while promoting a zero-tolerance approach to gang violence and long sentences for those caught.

It is thought to have contributed to a significant reduction in youth murders in the city.

Anarchy and chaos: Rioters set fire to barricades they constructed in Goulton Road in Hackne. The area is blighted by gang culture, crime and drugs.

The review of what can be done to tackle gang violence will be headed by Home Secretary Theresa May and Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith. Mrs May blamed gangs for much of the violence that has blighted Britain over the past week.

She said 6 per cent of youngsters claimed to be in a gang, adding: 'Gangs are inherently criminal. On average, entrenched gang members have 11 criminal convictions and the average age for a first conviction for a gang member is just 15.

'Gangs across the country are involved in the use and supply of drugs, firearms and knives.

'Talking to chief constables who have dealt with the violence of the last few days, it is clear that many of the perpetrators, but by no means all of them, are known gang members. We have to do more to tackle gang culture.'

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