A Merseyside study has found gang injunctions are a successful and cost-effective way to reduce violent criminal behaviour and make communities safer.
Former Merseyside Police Detective Superintendent Richard Carr, now a lecturer in policing studies at Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) led the study focusing on four high-profile gangs in Merseyside whose previous crimes have included attempted murder, firearms offences, drug dealing and robbery in both North and South Liverpool.
Merseyside has an estimated 190 gangs with 2,883 members (overall population 1.3m). The study reviewed the offending behaviour of 36 gang members over a three-year period after they were subject to gang injunctions.
Richard Carr of LJMU’s Centre for Advanced Policing Studies (LCAPS) said: “Gang related violence is a significant challenge for police forces in Merseyside and across the UK.
“Our research illustrated that gang injunctions can be a very successful way of not only protecting the community, but also the gang members themselves – preventing them from becoming the victims of attacks and retaliating with escalating violence.
“Results showed that the injunctions reduced offending episodes overall by *74% while levels of victimisation predominantly between rival members dropped by **60% in the three years.”
He added: “In a time of austerity, when law enforcement agencies have much reduced resources, they need to explore more alternative ways to tackle criminal behaviour.
“Merseyside police estimate the legal cost of implementing and managing gang injunctions to be around £15,000 so when compared with the costs associated with complex investigations, which can be hundreds of thousands of pounds, this approach would appear to offer excellent value for money.”
Introduced by the Home Office in 2009, gang injunctions allow courts to place a range of prohibitions and requirements on the behaviour and activities of a person involved in gang-related violence including preventing them from associating with known members and restricting their movements.
Merseyside Police Assistant Chief Constable Serena Kennedy said: “Gang injunctions continue to be powerful tool for Merseyside Police in cracking down on gang crime, which can blight the lives of decent, law-abiding people.
“The injunctions, along with other powers we have such as public space protection orders, are aimed at breaking up the gangs by preventing members from associating with each other or other known criminals.
"They give us the power to restrict their tools of the trade such as their use of mobile phones, wearing scarves or balaclavas to conceal their faces or possessing even the smallest amount of drugs.”
Richard Carr carried out the study in connection with Cambridge University’s Institute of Criminology. The research aimed to assess the effectiveness of injunctions in reducing criminal behaviour towards members of the public, as well as whether injunctions prevent gang members being attacked by rivals.
None of the Merseyside cases showed any increases in crime volume or harm, nor victimisation of the gang members providing strong evidence that police across England and Wales can use gang injunctions as a tried and tested alternative to crime-by-crime enforcement.