Youth worker turned UEL criminologist offers alternative ways to address violent youth crime
A former community and youth work practitioner turned criminologist takes a unique approach to the issue of youth violence and policy, in his new book.
Race, Gangs and Youth Violence: policy, prevention and policing, by UEL criminologist Dr Anthony Gunter, argues that serious youth violence is as much a health and education issue as it is a policing and crime one.
“This book has been many years in the making and has been informed by hundreds, perhaps thousands, of hours’ worth of conversations, observations and experiences as a community worker with young people, and more recently as an academic criminologist,” says Dr Gunter.
“I’m arguing starting from the premise that violent youth crime is not just a policing and criminal justice issue, rather it is better understood and tackled from a youth development approach.
“Instead of fixating on gangs I’ve started out by discussing the wide range of social harms and risky behaviours, of which gun and knife violence are manifestations that poor and marginalised young people engage in.”
Dr Gunter also says the 2011 riots that swept across England, can be said to be a watershed moment with regard to the national debate on gangs and violent youth crime, a debate which up to them had mainly taken place within the pages of the local and national print media.
“Both the Prime Minister David Cameron and the then Home Secretary Theresa May, alongside a number of other senior ministers, quickly rushed to blame the five days of looting, arson and violence on the ‘serious problem’ of ‘gangs and youth violence,” he says.
The book argues that It was just after the 2011 English summer riots that the issue of urban youth gangs moved out from the pages of the newspapers to become one of the centerpieces of the coalition’s social policy agenda; it was at this juncture that the UK gang crisis became official.
Before 2011 violent crime in the inner cities tended to be largely characterised via the police and news media as street crime involving drug dealing, robbery and the use of lethal weapons such as guns.
“But from the research evidence generated so far about the riots, it’s clear that street gangs were not responsible for causing the five days of looting, burning and violence,” says Dr Gunter.
“Contrary to the initial commentaries that appeared in the news media, the riots did not announce a new chapter in violent youth disorder: Britain has been in the thick of a moral panic concerning its young people stretching back the last 150 years.”
Race, Gangs and Youth Violence: Policy, prevention and policing can be purchased here
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