Young black teenagers in Britain are falling into criminal gangs because of family breakdown and a lack of positive role models, community workers say.
Since January there have been 17 shootings and stabbings in London alone, as police warn that the rise of teenage gangs is the worst problem facing Britain, after terrorism.
London’s Met police revealed that there were 170 gangs now operating in London, the majority of them being impressionable young teenagers drawn into violence by their peers.
Last Wednesday the government published a year-long study into the factors behind the rise of gang violence, which found that black teenagers were deprived of any positive role models on the TV.
The Reach panel of experts, from fields including education and business, said that too often role models for young black men include rappers who glamorize guns.
However youth workers on the streets of south London said that the findings were obvious to those in day to day contact with the problems of the area.
“The biggest proportion of single parent families in Britain come from the black community. Those who are in that position are more likely to get into crime and get excluded from schools,” he says.
Director of government-funded campaign Don’t Trigger, Raymond Stevenson says there is a “glass ceiling” many youngsters from the working classes of black society could not break through, and that it was easy to fall into criminality.
The campaign Don’t Trigger has recruited around 300 UK black music artists to produce records warning youngsters not to fall into crime.
Police make a distinction between gangs and old-fashioned London gangsters, the latter being criminal networks whose sole motive is to profit financially from organized crime.
Street gangs are typically made up of teenagers and are more loosely knit. Many gangs are often linked by no more than a postcode.
Officers from Britain have travelled to the US city to pick up tips on how to police gang crime, and in June police launched a campaign in all London boroughs called Operation Curb.
Last year a similar project called the Xcalibre task force was set up in Manchester to tackle turf wars between two heavily-armed and well-established groups: the Gooch Close and the Doddington gangs.