LONDON (Reuters) - Younger brothers and sisters of inner-city criminal gang members should be put on the child protection register and even taken into care, Britain’s most senior police officer said on Thursday.
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Ian Blair said a radical change was needed in the response to the growing problem of teenage violence.
“The solution to the problems of youth violence go far wider than policing,” he told the Guardian.
“One of the ideas I have asked to be explored is that where an older sibling is clearly involved in gang activity, the right way forward is that there should be a child protection approach for any younger sibling who is clearly at risk of moving into a lifestyle which is extremely dangerous to that child,” he said.
The paper said police chiefs believe peer pressure from brothers and sisters is one of the key drivers of recruiting children into gangs.
Blair’s call came as Scotland Yard presented a report on gang violence to the Metropolitan Police Authority, which oversees policing in the capital.
It said that since January seven teenagers had been murdered in London, noting that both victims and offenders were becoming younger.
Teenagers accounted for 31 percent of all shooting victims in London last year, nearly double the rate in 2003.
It said Scotland Yard had identified 171 gangs in London, including three girl gangs, with evidence that sisters and girlfriends of gang members were being used to mind weapons.
The report linked the gang problem with an increasing number of traumatised teenagers arriving in London from war zones overseas.
These young people, it said, were suffering significant post-traumatic stress and were having a “disproportionate negative impact” on other young people.
The report said recent research from charity the Wave Trust linked teenage violence to abuse and neglect of children in the first three years of their life.
“Evidence is emerging of the importance of early intervention in these cases,” the report said, calling for greater priority to be given to supporting children and families at risk.