At the end of March, a special report on the UK Knife Crime ‘epidemic’ was released. ITV London’s Ria Chatterjee interviewed teenage girls who support their male friends caught up in the violence. Putting the spotlight on those young women allowed us to hear their stories and understand the support they require. We also heard from professionals who support these young girls, in an education setting. Understanding the varied roles that girls play in gangs is crucial to tackling all aspects of youth violence, including gender based violence.
Assembly Member for Lambeth and Southwark, Florence Eshalomi asked the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan what he was doing to tackle the issues associated with girls and gangs.
In response, Sadiq Khan referenced the girls, gangs and their abusive relationships report, highlighting how girls are often hidden to services but play a prominent role.
In December 2018, I returned to the airwaves and shared some of the findings from my research on BBC Woman’s Hour.
One of the biggest revelations was the inconsistency across police in identifying women and girls and capturing them (and their risk) in systems. In the US, one police force acknowledged that there may be a culture to not acknowledge the presence of a female gang associate because ‘they are just a girlfriend’. Continue reading “Why don’t we see these girls?”
Earlier in my trip I visited Philadelphia, the city of ‘Brotherly Love’. While I was there, I was introduced to Judge Lori Dumas. Judge Dumas had previously sat in a specialist court programme in the Philadelphia Juvenile Court; WRAP Court.
WRAP court stands for ‘Working to Restore Adolescents’ Power’ and it is aimed at helping a specific cohort of children and young people who are at risk of or are a victims of commercial sexual exploitation and human trafficking. These young people come through the court system due to delinquency and (or) dependency matters.
An organisation can have an innovative and well-designed programme to tackle gang activity, but who they choose to deliver that work will determine how effective it is. From my time in New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and DC, I have seen that the most successful programmes have one common factor: credible messengers working on the ground with young people.
They say New York is a ‘city so nice, they named it twice’, but is that the reality facing vulnerable young people in the city?
This week, I have had the opportunity to meet with members of the National Association of Black Prosecutors, I have watched cases go through the courts and met with senior professionals who work in the criminal justice system in NYC. The opportunities to see the justice system in everyday action revealed stark differences between the way the UK works with vulnerable young people compared to that of the US. It has stressed the importance of both prevention services and early intervention programmes in reducing crime.