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Thursday, 8 September 2011

May To Hold Summit On Gang Culture

Theresa May, home secretary, is to host an international summit on how the country should deal with gangs, as part of the government’s response to last month’s riots.

Ms May, who appeared in front of MPs at the home affairs select committee on Thursday, conceded that only about a quarter of those involved in the violence in August are now thought to have had gang affiliations – fewer than thought. However, she said it was still vital to bring the problem under control.

“We are looking as widely as possible at what has worked [elsewhere] to make sure that what has worked is put in process,” Ms May said.

The home secretary reiterated that the government will also be canvassing the views of organisers of successful gang projects in the UK, such as the Strathclyde police scheme in Glasgow and another council-funded initiative in Waltham Forest, north London.

The prime minister has already announced that Bill Bratton, former chief of both New York and Los Angeles police departments, will be flying to the UK to give advice at the event in October.

However David Lammy, Labour MP for Tottenham – the borough in which the rioting started after the fatal police shooting of local resident Mark Duggan – suggested the focus should be on reassuring communities that the police would be able to restrain criminals more effectively in the future.

“We must never, ever allow criminals and gang members to run the streets,” he told the committee in an impassioned outburst. “The advances in community policing were important, but it needed to go further.”

Mr Lammy said he had concerns about Operation Trident, the Metropolitan Police’s campaign to reduce gun crime in the black community, which organised the operation when Mr Duggan was shot.

“When police come in from outside the borough, things can go wrong,” Mr Lammy said.

The MP added that he had seen evidence that riot perpetrators had been inciting violence on BlackBerry Messenger days before the disorder in Tottenham began. “I am deeply worried that the police seemed unaware of these networks,” Mr Lammy told the committee.

Separately, in a speech at the children’s charity Barnardo’s, Sadiq Khan, shadow justice secretary, castigated Ken Clarke, justice secretary, for making “simplistic assertions” when he called rioters a “feral underclass”.

“This kind of language absolves people from responsibility for their actions, implying that somehow they had no self-control or no choice,” Mr Khan said.

“Instead we will be looking at how we can make young people responsible citizens who understand the consequences of their actions and have the opportunities and the means to stay away from crime.”

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