[from Islington Gazette]
Bid to drive kids away from crime
27 February 2008
HUNDREDS of Islington youngsters at risk of becoming fully-fledged gangsters will get individual programmes to steer them away from drugs and violence.
As part of a new pledge to “get tough on gangs”, Islington Council and the police have drawn up a list of hardened gang members and younger teenagers at risk of following the same path.
Islington Council leader James Kempton is set to announce a £200,000 scheme to target the individuals identified and get them away from crime and into education and training.
Councillor Kempton said: “We will be drawing up a programme tailored specifically to each individual. If they have dropped out of school it’s about getting them back in. Where the older ones are not working we will try to get them into apprenticeships and jobs. We will also provide counselling and monitoring for the young people and their families.”
He continued: “Islington is not Hackney or Lambeth in terms of gang activity. But this is about giving young people something more important in their lives.”
Following the killing of 14-year-old Martin Dinnegan in Holloway in June, Islington police and the council identified 60 young people connected to four gangs that prowled the streets near where he was killed.
Some of those have been charged with Martin’s murder and are due to go on trial in April, others have been given ASBOs banning them from certain neighbourhoods and others have been directed back into education and jobs.
The police now claim that none of the four gangs connected with Martin’s death still exist, and say that success has prompted them to roll the scheme out across the whole borough.
Chief Inspector Jane Johnson, of Islington Police, said: “The four gangs were aligned to geographical areas such as Bennett Court in Holloway, Wray Crescent in Finsbury Park and Tufnell Park.
“Their members were involved in everything from congregating in an intimidating way and minor anti-social behaviour right up to the serious violence which resulted in Martin’s death.
“We made some arrests but the early intervention work we’ve done with many others has kept them out of the prison system and got them into jobs and schooling, and the result is that we’ve broken all four of those gangs.”
The cash will come from the Lib-Dem council’s latest budget, but according to Councillor Richard Greening, deputy leader of Islington Labour Party, it is too little too late.
“£200,000 is a drop in the ocean compared to the work we need to do,” he said. “This budget is a missed opportunity to tackle serious crime. Our kids deserve better.