Gangs workshops in schools latest tactic to curb street violence
CoVID-19 hasn’t stopped us delivering vital gangs workshops to more than 1,000 school staff and family support workers as part of our continued efforts to tackle ‘postcode’ violence.
The video presentations – run by the Birmingham Police Partnerships team – give teachers and youth workers the latest insight of the city’s gang scene and tensions between rival postcode areas.
And they also help attendees recognise the signs that may indicate a teenager is getting drawn into gangs, including different bandana colours linked to group affiliation.
The aim is to identify impressionable young people who may be at risk of falling into gangs and to offer support before it’s too late.
Helen Carver – a dedicated Young Persons Sergeant – runs the project and has delivered the presentation to more than 1,000 people already in February.
She said the project is already showing signs of success.
“We’ve had lots of positive feedback from schools,” she added, “and some really promising signs that it’s working and can help us safeguard vulnerable young people.
“We have seen an increase in schools submitting intelligence reports on pupils they have concerns over, and making direct contact with school link officers for advice and guidance on young people they believe may need support.
“Recently, a pupil was seen on social media ‘reppin’ a particular colour. A school staff member, having seen our video input, picked up on the potential connotation and supplied an intelligence report.
“We discovered they’d been involved in online chats about a serious incident of violence and exchanges with people linked to gangs.
“A referral has now been made into our multi-agency Exploitation Hub for discussion with partners on how best to intervene, offer support and steer the child away from negative influences that could seriously harm their future.”
The initiative is just one of many run by Birmingham Police aimed at tackling gang violence and diverting vulnerable children away from organised crime.
They also run Prince’s Trust courses to help young people develop new skills and build confidence, mentoring sessions, sports activities to keep teenagers occupied during holidays, and regular school inputs.
One of the more innovative has seen the team partner with a creative arts group to develop and deliver a virtual reality experience in which children are immersed in a world of peer pressure and gang culture.
The scenario sees the 11 to 17-year-olds asked a series of challenging questions as they navigate through the story towards one of several outcomes.
Detective Inspector Dawn Burns from the Birmingham Gangs Unit praised the scheme and stressed the importance of early intervention.
She said: “It’s really important we – and when I say ‘we’ I mean everyone who has interactions with young people – step in early if there are concerns a young person is at risk of joining a gang.
“Teachers, youth workers and parents…everyone has a role to play. If you suspect something is wrong then please reach out for support through us, the school, local authority or charity.
“And we’d ask parents not to be afraid of being intrusive in their children’s lives: where are they going, who are they seeing, has their behaviour changed?
“If you’re concerned, get in touch and we can help.”
For advice go onto WMP Online and search ‘gangs’ and our Life or Knife campaign site provides more help and support: https://lifeorknife.west-midlands.police.uk