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Tackling Gangs & Youth Violence

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17 February 2012
Tackling Gangs My campaign to urge the Government to take gang violence in our communities seriously has continued into the New Year.

Whilst there have been some big announcements this week about the MET’s new approach to tackling gangs and serious youth violence in London, I remain concerned about the proliferation of online videos, filmed locally in Lewisham and Catford, which glorify gangs and knives.

I believe the police should be given powers, via the courts to block access to this material.

The Bill I introduced last year won’t receive any more Parliamentary time, as we’re coming to the end of the session, but I am still pressing the government to address the issues of why young people get caught up in gangs in the first place and to better understand how gang violence and rivalries escalate.

Last month I met with Ed Vaizey, the Minister with responsibility for the internet, to discuss how progress may be made in respect of this online footage. He is keen on “self-regulation” i.e. relying on companies such as Google (the parent company of YouTube) to monitor material that is reported to them as inappropriate and for them (i.e. Google) to take down footage which contravenes their self-defined acceptability criteria.

I don’t think this is good enough. In my experience this means deeply disturbing footage can remain online for lengthy periods of time. Sometimes videos which would horrify most of us will be deemed completely acceptable by Google and will remain online. These videos may be acceptable if you are viewing them from the safety of an office in San Francisco, they won’t be if you are living in fear of gangs on the estate where the video has been filmed.

I’ve put these concerns (and others) to representatives from Google at their Safer Internet Day in Parliament this week and have met with youth workers in Brixton, who have been campaigning on gun, gang and crime related issues in South London for the past five years (see photo above).

They have also been lobbying Google to take seriously the adverse effects of gang videos on their websites and like me, they aren’t convinced that the processes that Google have in place at the moment are up to tackling the problem. Some of their staff have been involved in gangs themselves and know all too well the dangers of this material on the internet.

My next move is to try to get some of the senior MET officers down to talk to the young people I met in Brixton and to have a discussion about what they are going to do to address this problem. The campaign continues …

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