How do we know how many children are part of gangs in England?

Gangland activity in England often happens under the radar of the authorities, although defining what we understand to be a gang is not simple.

A report estimates that there are currently 27,000 children of both sexes that are part of gangs in England.

But how was such a figure reached?

Every year, the UK National Statistics Office carries out a crime survey by elaborating a representative sample of homes and their experience of the crime scene. Over the last three years, children between the ages of 10 to 15 have been asked if they regarded themselves to be members of a street gang.

The commissioner’s office for children in England made its own calculations with these figures.

Last year, a sample of some 4,000 children, 0.7% (about 30 children) said that they considered themselves to be members of street gangs. This figure was expanded to give an estimated figure of 27,000 all over England last year.

This is an estimate, but the report offers a much lower figure of 6,560 children properly known by teams that deal with child services, for participating in gangs.

The report concludes that the difference between the highest figure and the lowest is that most gang members are known to the authorities.

There is a lack of knowledge at the moment, but there is likely to be a high number of young people who participate in gangs that are unknown to the authorities, although there may be as many as 27,000 children who are involved in gangs.

As these figures come from a custom-made analysis, there is no comparable individual data with gang violence and criminal activities in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

But in London, the Metropolitan Police keeps a database known as the Gangs Matrix, which contains names of between 3,000 and 4,000 “persons of interest”.
The database has been criticised because of its disproportionate orientation towards young blacks that may have links with violent crime.
In 2017, when the latest time crime estimations were published, one of every 500 violent crimes recorded by the London police force was identified as being related to gangs. Since 2010, 15% of homicides in the capital have been related to gangs.

There has also been an increase in concern about children of both sexes that are exploited by drug gangs.

Bearing in mind the illegal nature of operations in the field of narcotics, the total participation is difficult to know, but most references received by the National Crime Agency affect minors of between 15 and 17 years of age.

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