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One year on, Islington's youth crime plan is keeping more young people safe

A year after Islington Council launched its youth crime plan, the borough has seen significant falls in gun crime and knife crime victims aged under 25, and encouraging signs that young people at risk of falling into gangs are instead looking to brighter futures. 

Determined to help tackle the causes and consequences of serious youth violence in the borough, the council launched its plan, called Working Together For A Safer Islington. This was backed by an extra £2million of council funding to enhance its existing services, increasing the focus on early intervention and improving its ability to handle more complex cases. 

Some of the extra money  spread over four years from 2016 to 2020  was put into the Integrated Gangs Team (IGT), which sees the council’s youth services work directly alongside police, probation, Job Centre Plus, an NHS psychologist and voluntary organisations. They identify and intensively support young people already entrenched in gangs to turn their back on crime and start building a positive future for themselves. Specialist social workers are on hand to help safeguard the often vulnerable young people through this process. 

The funding has also allowed the IGT to expand its work; since January this year it has been working with siblings of gang members, and children as young as 11 who are on the cusp of gang affiliation, to show them an alternative path and steer clear of becoming entrenched in – and victims of – gangs.  

Ofsted inspectors have also recently praised the “strong and robust” support our Children's Services give to vulnerable adolescents. 

Overall, in 2017/18: 

  • Serious knife crime among the under-25s fell 13.3compared to 2016/17, bucking the trend in London which saw a 1.7% increase.

  • There has also been a 24.4% fall in gun crime offences, while the figure fell 3.7% across London.

  • There was a 20% fall last year in the number of young people entering the criminal justice system for the first time (60 in 2017/18 compared to 75 in 2016/17).

  • Less than half as many young people received custodial sentences compared to the previous year (17 in 2017/18 compared to 30 in 2016/17). This was the largest drop in the use of custodial sentences in London.

  • The IGT worked with 133 young people, including 76 directly involved in gangs, 29 at risk of gang involvement, and 28 young victims of crime. 

The extra money is also funding offers of support and engagement in mentoring, education and employment opportunities for specific young people aged between seven and 18. The charity Chance UK has mentored 48 primary-school-age children, and Safer London has mentored 30 more aged 11 to 17. Workers from St Giles’ Trust have given one-to-one support to 75 young people aged 10 to 18, and the Exploitation and Missing Team have identified 31 more children at risk of sexual exploitation (CSE). 

As a result of this work, the rate of reoffending has fallen, and 25 people have successfully left gangs altogether. The money also means an extra 48 teenagers per year can be offered counselling, and more group work is taking place. 

The youth crime plan also includes pledges to combat “county lines” drug dealing, and invest in youth services to tackle the roots of serious youth violence. 

In the last three years our Missing And Exploited team has trained about 1,800 practitioners about gangs and CSE. This includes training more than 100 British Transport Police officers to be aware of the county lines issue, and how to identify signs of vulnerable young people using public transport to ferry drugs out of London. Our internal safeguarding training and policies also now contain guidance on signs to look out for. 

Cllr Joe Caluori, Islington's executive member for children, young people and families, said: “These are encouraging steps towards making Islington a safe place for all our residents – and in particular for our young people to grow up and achieve their full potential.

"I’m very proud that we keep investing in first-class youth services at a time when many other local authorities are cutting funding. 

"Of course, we know that there is more work to do and sadly we still see incidents of serious violence on our streets. 

"The causes and drivers of serious youth crime are extremely complex and wide-ranging. Every young person's experience is different; there are many factors at work and no single solution can turn the tide. But it is encouraging to see that our strategy – of working together, sharing information and listening to the needs of often very vulnerable young people – is starting to pay off. 

"We will never be complacent and youth crime is still a serious challenge for communities in Islington and right across the capital, but we are doing the right thing. 

"I'd like to ask residents to help where they can – an important part of this approach is the whole community coming together to help create a safer Islington. Please always report any concerns about crime in your local area to the police or to the council’s anti-social behaviour team." 

To find out more about what we’re doing to keep Islington safe, see islington.gov.uk/community-safety.