Tackling gang crime
Wednesday, 22 February 2012 00:00
Question by Steve O'Connell
I think we would accept that gangs and a gang culture do not happen overnight. It needs time to germinate and to develop in our communities and I think it probably would be accepted around this group that perhaps eight or ten years ago a firmer grip was needed and it was not applied and we are reaping that harvest at the moment.
What I would like to turn to, however, is the more complex effect on the social structure, particularly abuse of young women and young girls. You may well have seen only yesterday Yvonne Trainer [Chief Executive, Croydon Rape and Sexual Abuse Crisis Centre] whom you know from Croydon, commenting on some recent sentencing after the abuse of an 11-year-old girl. So, Mr Mayor, would you agree that the gang issue is far more complex than perhaps has been represented by some colleagues?
Answer by Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): It is.
Steve O'Connell (AM): Would you like to comment on what you would like to see done around particularly the issue of the abuse of young girls connected to the gang culture?
Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): As you rightly say, Steve, girls and the relationships between gang members and girls is a key part of the mix and the excitement of these gangs. I am afraid that is just the awful reality. You have to provide escape routes. You have to give girls who get involved in this nightmare, in this nonsense, a safe place to go to, someone to talk to. That is why we have supported the Rape Crisis Centres and Croydon led the way, of course, in that. We have supported them. We have greatly expanded rape crisis provision in London by a factor of four. That is why it is so important and we are going to continue with that work.
Steve O'Connell (AM): Mr Mayor, just following up on that, I do not want to comment specifically on sentencing. It is not the place of this building perhaps to do so. I would urge you to use your influences to try to reach out - and I know some work is being done - to those young girls who are becoming sexualised very, very early under the influence of gangs. This is work you are looking at but it is a problem. You mentioned earlier quite rightly that the number of gang leaders is small but the number of youngsters affected is not so small and those young ladies - and probably young boys, also - need to be helped and I am sure you will do so.
Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): They do. I certainly am aware of a great deal of work that is being done under A Time for Action to address the problem of girl involvement in gangs and it is part of a nexus of problems. If you ask what people are looking for when they get involved in a gang, they are looking for prestige. They are looking for excitement. They are looking for esteem. They are looking for all those kinds of things. I am afraid that we need to provide alternatives that are much better.
Steve O'Connell (AM): Thank you very much.