£1m-a-year gangs unit set up in Hammersmith and Fulham to keep youngsters away from crime

By Julia Gregory, Local Democracy Reporter

A new gangs unit which will cost almost £1m a year to run is to be set up to keep young people out of a life of crime.

Youngsters at risk of getting groomed and ensnared in gangs will be offered a way out in the move – which will see police and Hammersmith and Fulham council working closely together.

The new £983,000-a-year gang violence and exploitation unit, which will be paid for by money gained from developers in return for community benefit – known as Section 106 money – will see police specialists based at council offices.

They will share intelligence to give young people a way out or stop them getting involved in the first place.

It’s thought to be one of the few joint units of its kind designed to stop gangs in their tracks.

It follows an increase in youth violence over the past 18 months – a lot of it attributed to gangs.

Last March Ayub Hassan was stabbed fatally in the heart in North End Road, Fulham, by a 15-year-old boy over a row about drugs.

His killer, who has since been jailed, had been known to police and was caught selling crack cocaine and heroin in 2018.

Sue Fennimore, the council’s deputy leader, said she was determined to stop more families going through the hell caused by such violence.

“When I sat down with his mother and she told me what had happened to her son – it would absolutely make your toes curl,” she said.

“I’ve had the experience three times of sitting across the table from mothers and siblings talking about what has happened to their family after a child has been murdered. I don’t want another family to go through this.”

Councillor Fennimore, who volunteers working with young people, pledged: “We are going after those people doing the exploitation.”

And she said the council “must do everything we can to divert them from gangs.”

Just over half the young people convicted of crime in Hammersmith and Fulham re-offend – that’s more than 41 per of young criminals in London who re-offend and 38 per cent nationally.

And there were 11 young people sentenced to custody last year, up on seven the previous year.

Former borough commander Gideon Springer who is now the council’s head of safe streets, said the unit will work to divert young people from a life of crime – by offering them a way out, such as community support from playing football.

He said: “We can spend more time with young people.

“We can intervene before they got involved with youth offending team.”

The unit will also work with young woman caught up in the violence.

Chief Officer for safer neighbourhoods, Matt Hooper, said the team, which includes four gang workers, four antisocial behaviour officers and six police officers, will work intensively with young people.

He said: “During lockdown there has been a significant reduction in crime, but the offences related to drug dealing haven’t reduced as much.”

He said there were “a lot of tit-for-tat incidents” and matters escalated.

“We felt there was a need to address the problem immediately.”

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