2 Ending Gang Violence and Exploitation Introduction This document sets out a refreshed approach to tackling gang related violenceandexploitation, and our priorities for the future. It is aimed at our local partners, especially in the 52 local areas we have worked with on the Home Office funded Ending Gang and Youth Violence (EGYV) programme. The aim of the EGYV programme has been to reduce violence, and to achieve this through supporting a change in the way that public services respond to gangand youth violence. That continues to be the case, however, the work of the EGYV frontline team and our key partners has identified the need to respond and focus on gang related exploitation of the vulnerable and the future approach and priorities of local areas, supported by the Home Office, must reflect this. The new challenge: Gang related exploitation of vulnerable young people and adults The Ending Gangs and Youth Violence programme has meant we have a much better understanding of the issues in relation to gangand youth violence, and how to tackle them. We also have a clearer picture of the challenges, and how best to target action. We know, for example, that many gangs are changing. Local partners tell us that street gangs are becoming less visible in public, and more fluid in the way they organise. In particular, it is important that local partners are able to respond to the exploitation of vulnerable people by gangs, especially as the problem is often hidden, and not always understood in some local areas where it is taking place. That is why we have refreshed our approach, and why we are concerned with both reducing gang related violenceand preventing the exploitation of vulnerable people by gangs. Priorities for 2015/16 and onwards We have identified six priorities to support the refreshed approach. In order to address these priorities, it remains very important that agencies continue to work closely together and have a good understanding of current and emerging local problems and how they can be addressed most effectively. 1. Tackle county lines – the exploitation of vulnerable people by a hard core of gang members to sell drugs Gang members are moving into drugs markets outside the urban areas where they usually live and operate, because they are unknown to the local police, there is less competition locally from rival gangs, and non-metropolitan police forces tend to have less experience of addressing this type of activity. The exploitation of vulnerable people is central to county lines. For example, young people are groomed and/or coerced into moving or selling drugs, and the homes of vulnerable adults can be taken over as a base from which drugs are sold.
Ending Gang Violence and Exploitation 3 The first National Crime Agency (NCA) assessment of county lines, safeguarding andgangs, published in August 2015, provided evidence of the nature and scale of the problem. For example, more than half (57%) of the areas affected by county lines in the sample were coastal towns or towns close to the coast. The NCA assessment identifies county lines as a national issue that almost always involves exploitation of vulnerable people: both children and adults who require safeguarding; and those targeted include Looked After Children and other children known to children’s social care or youth offending teams. The NCA and National Policing Lead on Gangs are leading the national response to tackle county lines through Operation Engaged working together with the support of the other relevant policing leads in the National Police Chiefs’ Council. However, it is essential that police forces and their partners develop an understanding of what this means locally and that they understand how to identify and respond to gang related exploitation of vulnerable people. 2. Protect vulnerable locations – places where vulnerable young people can be targeted, including pupil referral units and residential children’s care homes Looked After Children and those children known to children’s social care or youth offending teams are at risk of being exploited and used by gangs. Children not known to services are, however, also used by gangs in an effort to evade detection. There is evidence that residential children’s care homes and pupil referral units are being targeted. We also know of cases where gang members have been waiting outside schools to meet children. The gang members take the child away to participate in criminal activities and return them in time to avoid them being reported missing or raising suspicion. The Department for Education (DfE) has been taking steps to raise the quality of care in children’s homes and reinforce their role in safeguarding vulnerable children. New regulations and guidance, introduced in April 2014, make it clear that homes can and should prevent a child leaving the home where there is an immediate risk to their safety – which would include where a gang was seeking to lure a child away for involvement in gang activities. DfE has also undertaken a stock-take of frontline practice in relation to missing children, which will inform and help to shape ongoing work to strengthen and improve practice with the Association of Directors of Children’s Services. 3. Reduce violenceand knife crime – including improving the way national and local partners use tools and powers We will continue to prioritise the reduction of gang related violence including tackling knife crime. The Ending Gangs and Youth Violence programme has supported local areas in bringing key partners together and developing an effective local response to gangviolence. Local areas are encouraged to continue to follow this approach, and through undertaking regular local assessments, ensure their actions remain focused on emerging local issues.