Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Kim McGuinness has today warned that without funding for interventions to prevent young people getting caught up in gangs in the North East, we will see more lives ruined.
In a report presented to the Northumbria Police and Crime Panel this week, Kim McGuinness raised concerns that the Governments has yet to announce if Violent Reduction Units will be given funding for a third year to help continue work to tackle youth violence, including gang crime.
She explained that as a region we need to build on the good work that’s happening to prevent vulnerable, impressionable young people from becoming involved in local gang cultures, as well as supporting those who already need to escape and turn their lives around.
Several organisations in the North East, who work with the Commissioner’s Violence Reduction Unit, have also identified girls at risk of gang-related violence and their good work in this area was recently highlighted in a Westminster Hall debate on the topic of ‘Gang-associated girls’.
One organisation is Edge North East, which mentors girls and young women involved in gangs. Also making great inroads is the Children’s Society North East which has worked with more than 30 girls who are at risk of harm and exploitation due to their association with gang members.
Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Kim McGuinness, explained: “We can’t shy away from the fact that gangs do operate in our region, although we are fortunate it’s at a much lower level compared to other areas. Through the organisations we are working with we are hearing first-hand some real horror stories about girls who are involved too. Many have been subjected to physical and sexual violence, forced to do drug runs, to carry and store weapons, and to drive vehicles for drug deals in the belief they are less likely to be stopped by the police. They have even allowed their bank accounts to be used to stash money.”
“These girls are often manipulated and controlled and were led to believe life as a girlfriend of a gang member is a glamorous one. They’re told they’ll be looked after and taken care off and receive the best of everything. This couldn’t be further from the truth. This is grooming.”
Kim added: “Both young men and women who get caught up in this dark world are often already vulnerable and they don’t want the life they have got caught up in, but they don’t know what to do. They have experienced so much and are frightened. They need help to get out, get away and get their life back. It often needs completely cutting ties off and this needs support.
“We have a real battle on our hands in preventing our young people from getting involved with these gangs in the first place too. Prevention is far better than prison but I do fear that time is rapidly running out for the Home Secretary to agree a third year funding for violence reduction units. Quite simply if we do not get another round of violence reduction funding in place, gang crime will continue to ruin lives.”
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