Gun and Knife Crime

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2008 National Delegate Conference
31 May 2008

This Conference notes with concern that gang culture is widespread amongst some young people within some parts of the UK. Increasingly, young people are joining gangs, often carrying imitation or real firearms and knives, both for protection and as part of their image.

Conference believes that the devastating consequences of gun and knife crime across the UK is an escalating problem, particularly among some of our younger people, that simply cannot be ignored.

However, Conference deplores demands for greater punishment or more draconian legislation. It is increasingly clear that such approaches hold little deterrent value to our young people and that alternative solutions must be adopted if we are to make our communities safer, and offer hope of an alternative to our young people caught up in violent gang culture.

This Conference believes that whilst gun crime impacts onto all citizens of the United Kingdom and workers providing public services – health, housing, education, social services – it has a disproportionate impact on our members, both in their role as providers of public services and as parents – irrespective of ethnic origin and community.

This Conference believes that as with tackling racism this is a trade union issue, and that the trade unions must give and take the lead in resolving it.

Conference, therefore, calls on the National Executive Council to draw up proposals to tackle this issue by:

1)working with the General Secretary to examine initiatives to firmly place UNISON and the broader trade union movement (TUC) in the vanguard of tackling this scourge;

2)establishing a forum with local authorities, community organisations, local trade union branches, Police, Home Office and other stakeholders to highlight the issue and establish a campaign of an educational and organisational nature to raise awareness to end this scourge;

3)call for a fire arms amnesty;

4)working with all service groups regionally and nationally, branches and employers to raise the issue as a workplace issue similar to the tackling racism initiatives;

5)calling upon Labour Link to assist with this strategy;

6)report back on progress to National Delegate Conference 2009.

We also believe that in tackling gun crime, associated problems of social deprivation have to be highlighted: inadequate and failing education, unemployment, inadequate and poor housing, low wages, inadequate skills and training, poverty, drug and benefits dependency culture etc.

With increased cuts in youth services and the impact this has on young people in inner city communities’ Conference notes with concern the level of youth offending and gang cultures.

Anti Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) are not the correct way of addressing youth offending and can be seen as a way of criminalising young people. We should be looking at the reasons why some young members of black and ethnic communities are attracted to gang association and explore the experiences that lead to them feeling marginalised and excluded.

Media coverage has highlighted an increased number of gun crime and increased murders of young people within Black communities. The increased murder rates, which disproportionately affect young Black men, mean that we must look at the root causes of these problems

Conference welcomes the decision of National Black Members Conference to organise a seminar to look at developing a strategy to develop public services which will look at ways of addressing issues affecting young members of black and ethnic minority communities.

UNISON believes that this serious problem will only be addressed by government action, bringing together the work of a number of public bodies such as the Youth service, probation, Job Centre Plus, local authorities and the National Health Service to work with our local communities: This Conference believes that a number of initiatives need to be introduced:

a)central government to support local councils bringing together teams, on a multi-agency basis, to address the root causes leading to gang culture such as low educational attainment, high youth unemployment, illegal drugs, alcohol abuse within our communities;

b)support from central and local government for employment opportunities for young people, including genuine apprenticeships which provide a route into well-rewarded, skilled employment;

c)more dependable support networks need to be established, for young people and adults who want to leave gangs and for families affected by gang culture, with government and employers to provide more training of staff working with young men and women in youth custody and prisons and building a network of support and alternative pathways for them on release, so as to remove the need for them to revert to the same lifestyle and activities that got them sent to prison or involved in gangs in the first place;

d)support from central government for employers to provide counselling and support for young men and women who want to get out of the gang lifestyle;

e)the government to provide safe environments for all vulnerable young people in which they could talk with key workers about problems confronting them (e.g. bullying at school or at home and pressures they are facing from their peers) which increase pressure on young people to become involved in gang culture;

f)audits of Youth Service provision to ensure these services are adequately funded and are being delivered in accordance with the above aims;

g)government and employers to ensure adequate, properly resourced protection for public sector workers providing services to violent or potentially violent clients;

h)to encourage the use of independent mediation services with mediators recruited from the community who after training, and having credibility in those areas, can be deployed to prevent escalation in cases of rising gang tension, including to interrupt momentum towards reprisal shootings in gang shooting incidents.