‘Encouraging steps’ for Islington youth crime scheme – which has worked with 76 gang members in past year

Cllr Joe Caluori, Islington Council's children and young people leader, belives 'encouraging steps'

Cllr Joe Caluori, Islington Council's children and young people leader, belives 'encouraging steps' have been made to make the borough safer. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

A young Islington male has been in and out of custody for a series of violent offences. He’s been indentified by Islington’s Integrated Gangs Team as someone entrenched in a criminal lifestyle. But the team also believes he would turn his back on it all, given the chance.

He’s approached by a team member, who knows he’s a fan of skateboarding. Through the team’s partner groups, it’s able to get him on a skiing course. It has enabled him to see a different world. Now he has a qualification.

Without this carefully planned work, it’s highly unlikely he’d have got this opportunity. The team continues to support him, and there has been no reoffending. Most important of all, it has all been his choice.

This is one of the success stories a year after Islington Council launched its youth crime plan, targeting people under 25.

As previously reported by the Gazette, the town hall set aside £2million between 2016 and 2020 to increase the focus on early intervention and improve its ability to handle complex cases.

Some of the cash was pumped into the Integrated Gangs Team, which sees the council’s youth services work directly with police, probation, psychologists and voluntary groups.

Together, they identify young people entrenched in gang life – and all the horror that can bring – to support them and start building a positive future.

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One way of doing this has been working with the siblings of gang members. They even work with children as young as 11 who are on the cusp of gang affiliation.

Over the past year, the team worked with 76 young people directly involved in gangs and 29 at risk of gang involvement.

In terms of crime figures among under 25s, there have been some positive results in 2017/18 compared to 2016/17. Serious knife crime is down 13 per cent, with gun crime done 24pc. There was a 20pc drop in first-time entrants to the justice system.

Cllr Joe Caluori, Islington’s children and young people leader, told the Gazette this week that the council can so far be happy with the money it has invested: “We’re really pleased to see these improvements in key areas like knife crime. It is encouraging to see that our strategy is starting to pay off.”

But it’s not to say Islington’s streets are free of violence. “We still have repeat offenders,” Cllr Caluori said. “We have new challenges, like the massive increase in robberies [up 73pc]. Young people have been targeting adults, particularly around Archway and Tufnell Park.

“We’ve had success in some areas but have to be alive to the fact other things are cropping up.”

Clearly, there is still a lot of work to do: “We have young people exiting gang lifestyles who are engaged with us, but we still have a cohort of older young people engaged in offending.”

Eviction threat

Islington’s young people leader says the council is ready to employ a “harder edge” to deal with people who refuse to co-operate with its efforts’ to make the borough a safer place.

That could mean the threat of eviction for those in council properties.

In total, the Integrated Gangs Team worked with 133 young people last year. But there are many more who it is unable to reach.

Cllr Joe Caluori explained: “We have a feeling that putting in place support and positive measures is not working with some people.

“There are individuals and families who aren’t engaging with our work, and are resistant.

“In some cases, parents are actively co-operating in their children’s offending.

“Our work is going to need a harder edge in the next few years [for those not co-operating].

“The message has come through in the community: people are fed up of a small number of families ruining things for everyone else.”