Are black young people in London Borough of Lewisham more likely to join a gang than their contemporary white? Fact or Fallacy?’

 

CHAPTER 1: PURPOSES AND AIMS

Although youth gang is not a new phenomenon in history, it was dated back to the work of Thrasher 1927 cited in (Muncie, 1999) which he carried out on Chicago Slum. His studies has generated several research work on gang culture and how criminal activities have been on increase amongst young people (YP), most especially black young people, (BYP). Millie et al (2005) and Dolby (2002) argue that the society’s emphasis on fear and suspicion on young people’s behaviour is often more of a problem than the behaviour they exhibit. Labelling all young people as criminals because of the disposition of some of them is a stereotype and has led to the way this group of people are being perceived in the society (Thompson 2006, McGarty et al. 2002).

Conversely, their coming together should not always create fear, as some of them come together for sincere fellowship of socialising, finding emotional support, affection and sympathy which is absent at home (Firmin, et al. 2007 cited in Barter and Berridge, 2011). Lewisham borough is a highly ethnically diverse community with black population likely to be higher than white population, therefore there is every tendency of having more black represented in gang activities because according to the research carried out by (the Centre for Social Justice, 2009) the ethnicity of the gang members in every community reflects the ethnicity of the population within the area. However, it does not mean that BYP are more likely to be involved in gang than the WYP.

The underlying aim of this research is to investigate whether it is evidently proven that BYP in Lewisham Borough are more likely to join a gang than their contemporary white, or whether it is just political or media propaganda, with particular reference to the media’s reporting and met police statistical data on the authenticity of  the research question in other to establish  whether they provide an honest image on gang culture in the Lewisham borough, and the perception that there is no more white crime. To address this aims, the research will employ a case study approach (Johnson and Christenson, 2010) to study young people (YP) through a sample taken from YP from Meadows Estate Youth Club and Skill Funding Agency, ‘Be Totally You’ in the borough.

Chapter 2 discusses literature review using textbooks, journals and newspaper articles, documents and records from Lewisham websites and other agencies in order to ascertain whether media reporting and metropolitan statistical data are revealing the true nature of gang culture among BYP in the Lewisham Borough.

Chapter 3 discusses the methodology adopted for this research, with emphasis on the advantages and disadvantages of using primary and secondary sources and reasons for the choice made.

Chapter 4 examines the ethical considerations which the expected pattern of behaviour and practical behaviour that is expected of the researcher to uphold.

Chapter 5 focuses on analysing the research findings to determine the ethnicity that is likely by involved; young people’s perspective on gang; reason for gang culture amongst BYP; and impact of media’s reporting and met police statistic on BYP.

Finally, conclusions will be drawn from the evidences gathered to determine whether the aims of the research have been met. And recommendation will be made for further study.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER 2: LITERATURE REVIEW

A gang or gang culture is seen as a new phenomenon that emanates as a result of industrialisation and has grown over the years to exist almost in every main city (Muncie, 1999). The Centre for Social Justice in Dying to Belong defines gang as ‘a relatively durable, predominantly street-based group of young people who: (1) see themselves (and are seen by others) as a discernible group; (2) engage in criminal activity and violence; (3) lay claim over territory (this is not necessary geographical territory but can include an illegal economy territory); (4) have some form of identifying structural feature; and (5) are in conflict with other, similar gangs’ (the Centre for Social Justice,2009:21). The work of (Thrasher, 1927 cited in Muncie, 1999) states that gang exist in order to provide supports and sense of belonging among gang members.

However, since the work of (Thrasher, 1927) on gang, various reports have shown how criminal activities like knife and gun crime have increased among gang members; especially rivalry between different gang groups. Conversely, media’s reporting on the young people has always centred on criminal activities which portray young people as being delinquent which has been of great concern. Gottfredson and Hirschi (1990) cited in Gottfredson (2001:4) define delinquency as ‘a behaviour involving the use of force or fraud, acts of defiance and disobedience, and acts that deliberately cause harm to self or others.’ Nevertheless, (Hannon, 2003 cited in Ungar, 2010) argues that a child that is exposed to cruel experience is likely to exhibit inappropriate behaviour which is delinquent; he further carried out a survey on 6000 ages 14 to 21 years young people in United States and discovered that delinquency does not affect young people equally.  Furthermore, delinquency can be influenced by ‘low educational attainment, high crime neighbourhood, week family attachments, lack of discipline, and physical or sexual abuse, delinquent peer group’ (Huizinga, et al. 1993 cited in Humprey, 2002:11).

The media has not only succeeded in creating unnecessary panic within the community, but they have blown it beyond proportion, especially to the global world in general as if all young people are actually perpetrators of violence. For instance (Moran and Hall, 2011), report in ‘The Daily Mail’ that British youths are ‘the most unpleasant and violent in the world: Damning verdict of writer as globe reacts to riots’, though the Researcher was able to clarify the fact that not all young Britons are actually bad, because the nation has greater percentage of pleasant young people compared to other nations.  Obviously, there are lots of young people who are contributing positively to the society, for example; there are lots of them that take up employment during their summer holiday, thus helping them to gain work experience and contributing to the economy (Betsey, et al. 1985); while there are some of them that act as young carer voluntarily to their sick love ones or looking after their younger siblings when their parents are at work; as well as those that are volunteering in their locality (Feinstein, et al. 2005).

The community has to look beyond all these negative reports about young people in order to have a broader perspective about them thereby avoiding being stereotype or judgemental (Thompson, 2006).  Labelling all young people as criminals because of negative activities of some is a stereotype (Thompson, 2006) thus widening relationship between them and the rest of the society; moreover, labelling their activity as antisocial creates negative impact on their persona; they are sometimes vilified for hanging out in groups as the society’s expectation of their gathering is negative (Carrington and Pereira, 2010; Millie, et al. 2005). The society’s emphasis on fear and suspicion on young people’s behaviour is often more of the problem than the behaviour they exhibit(Millie, et al. 2005 and Dolby, 2002).

Although it has been established that gang and gang culture exist most especially amongst young people, but the fact still remains that the coming together of some of them are not necessarily to perpetrate violence but rather for a sincere relationship like drawing strength from one another, that is; socio-psychological reasons, no wonder some of the group of young people refused to be identified with the label ‘gang member’ despite the fact that their group consist of individuals with shared biographies and histories (Barter and Berridge, 2011).  Nevertheless (Nawojczyk, 1997) says contemporary gangs work together for anti-social motives; such as selling drugs, vandalising, extortion, and theft and so on. Consequently, to build a safer community, there is a need for society’s willingness to collaborate with young people by warning those that are at risk the consequent of inappropriate behaviour, providing assistance during emergencies, as well as supporting low income family (Carlson and Garrett, 2008).

According to (Thompson, 2006 and McGarty, et al. 2002), a stereotype is a firm belief about the behaviour or attitude of an individual or group of people which often leads to the way this individual or group of people are been perceived in the society. Thus, the manner in which the young black are being criminalised could been seen as being stereotype most especially the media’s approach to it, to the extent that even if the same crime is committed by their contemporary white it does not receive much publicity as it could have been for black youths (Diamond,1988).  However(Baroness Scotland of Asthal, 2007) argues that offences that is uniquely committed by Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) community should be appropriately exposed; thus demands for equality and fairness in criminal justice system for all irrespective of race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation or faith, he further stress that the police should be mindful of the word use when addressing BYP, for instance ‘black on black’. Conversely, this does not mean one should ignore the role and the good impact plays by the media in the society because freedom of press and expression is fundamental human right (Czepek, et al. 2009, Martin and Adam, 1994).   Burfeind et al. (2011) are able to disprove this through their research that not all adolescents are involved in criminal acts, neither do some of them exhibit a particular behaviour repeatedly that could raise a concern for anyone.

Fahy (2007) argues that police have been unfair in the way they deal with certain minority group most especially when it comes to ‘stop and search’ as they are said to be excessive and inappropriate.  However, BME group are disadvantaged in social and economic terms compared to white population, therefore in order for them to be elevated from this situation, BYP turns to inappropriate behaviour like trading in drugs; theft; vandalising cars and properties, using gun and knives as weapons while white young people (WYP) will rather turn to use of alcohol to assault their victims (Fahy, 2007).  It is therefore apparent that the crimes committed by BYP in UK differ from the ones committed by their contemporary white, and that gang culture is on an increase among black youths because of their reliance on the peer emotional support in the absence of parental, community support.  Though (Firmin, et al. 2007, cited in Barter and Berridge, 2011) state that these young people come together to socialise, find emotional, financial, and social support, and to find affection and sympathy not found in the comfort of their homes. But then, it cannot be ruled out that some individual within the group may be involved in violence but because violence is not intrinsic to the identity and purpose of the group, the group are defined as peer group rather than gangs (Barter and Berridge, 2011). Nevertheless, the neighbourhood in which a child grew has a way of influencing their behaviour negatively or positively (Parsloe, 1978).

Nawojczyk (1997) argues that the contemporary society has made alternative lifestyle very appealing to these young people thus making some of them feeling unfulfilled if they do not get their desire met; and eventually seek the way out of the situation without considering the consequences at the initial stage.  Siegel and Welsh (2011) argue that the need to acquire material things, seeking place to belong or attention which cannot be enjoyed at home, need to earn respect or fear others exhibit around them, the need to gain power, drug profits, family dysfunction, and natural consequence of the economic and social dislocation have been some of the driving force that motivate youngsters in gang.  However (Wood and Landry, 2008) argument is based on lack of diversity in the housing stock which makes it impossible for children and young people to thrive well because of the situation they found themselves, for instance overcrowded accommodations thus encouraging young people to spend lots of time on the streets with friends rather than being at home; concentration of particular ethnicity within a community.

According to (Siegel and Welsh, 2011; andSharp, et al. 2006), the age range of gang members are said to be between ages 10 and 19 as discovered by the 2004 Offending, Crime and Justice Survey (OCJS); however Metropolitan Police Service research found the gang members’ age range to be between 12 and 25 years old (Mares 2000 in Klein, et al).  Mostly, young gang members or associates have their first exposure to gang culture through media; like movies, videos, news clips, and music of various artists which tends to glamorize the gang lifestyle (Nawojczyk, 1997). Thus, the impact of the media’s influence on gang culture should therefore not be underestimated; however, there is need for parents’ involvement on what their children watch on televisions and the site they visit while online (Ivory, 2003).  Gang membership is predominantly male, according to (Home Office, 2008), in the research carried out by Dawson in Tackling Gang Action Programme (TGAP) cited in (The Centre for Social Justice, 2009), 98% of gang members were male; however, female members are said to be playing ancillary role like mothers; girl friends or sex partner; carrying weapon as well as setting up rival gangs (The Centre for Social Justice, 2009; and Siegel and Welsh, 2011)

Lewisham Borough has been a home of multicultural groups, according to Ethnicity/Lewisham’s Joint Strategic Needs Assessment (JSNA) 2010; 30% of the entire population are black ethnic groups; in England, it is fifteenth most ethnically diverse local authority with two out of every five residents from black and minority ethnic background, Appendix 7.  Grant and Ladson-Billings (1997:182) cited in Hadjetian (2008) define multiculturalism as a ‘philosophical position and movement that assumes that the gender, ethnic, racial, and cultural diversity of a pluralistic society should be reflected in all its institutionalised structures but especially institutions, including the staff, norms and values, curriculum and student body.’

However (Kivisto, 2008), says multiculturalism is a way of protecting separate ethnic identities while still maintaining different identity within nationality that unites different groups in the society. It is allowing the society work better by making the citizens feel valued when their culture are respected; fostering and encouraging different culture within a community rather than in only one mainstream culture (McCalman, 2010).  Therefore, recognising and responding to diverse culture, language, race, gender and so on is evidence that any given community value diversity (McCalman, 2010 and Thompson, 2006).  Allowing people most especially young people to be actively involved in taking decision on issues that concerns them rather than adjusting them to fit in into the society is a way of empowering them which help in shaping their behaviour within the society (Thompson, 2006).

Social exclusion, marginalisation, stereotyping, stigmatization are the experiences within the black community, Lewisham Borough being an ethnically diverse community with black population higher than white population could have the tendency of having more black represented in gang and gang culture because of the fact that the ethnicity of the gang members in every community reflects the ethnicity of the population within the area (The Centre for Social Justice, 2009). However, it does not mean that BYP are more involved in gang and gang culture than WYP.  Lewisham Ethnic Minority Partnership (LEMP) was established as a representative ‘voice’ of Lewisham’s Black and Minority Ethnic (LBME) communities to extend opportunities to BME individuals and organisation from the disadvantage communities in Lewisham and its surrounding area by working together with the local authority, public health services and other organisations to address social exclusion amongst BME communities. However, going by the age breakdown according to the ethnic group; Black Others has the highest population of the age 0-14 years with 46%, Black Africans has 30%, Black Caribbean has 20%, and White has 13%, while in ages 15-40 years; 57% are White, 50% are Black Africans, 48% are Black Caribbean and 44% are from Black Other, ‘Lewisham’s Joint Strategic Needs Assessment’ (LJSNA).

From the above research done by LJSNA it is clearly seen that black ethnicity groups are highly represented in the two age groups when compared with white ethnicity group, Appendix 8. Thus one could conclude that black community have higher percentage of young people, therefore if there is no proper opportunity made available to them, they tend to channel their energy into something negative because they are always in the company of one another.   According to Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) 2010, issued in March 2011; Lewisham is said to be the 31st most deprived Local authority out of 326 Local authorities in England, which means the people in the community are getting poorer, the deprivation are viewed in 6 realm which are: Income Deprivation; Barriers to Housing and Services, Crime, and Living Environment Deprivation; Employment Deprivation; Health Deprivation and Disability; Education Skills and Training Deprivation, Appendix 9a and 9b.  Lewisham Borough and its partners using available knowledge and information are building upon the existing strategies by placing the Looked After Young People (LAYP) that are involved in gang culture in strong placement and procurement practice in a safe and appropriate environment where their needs are suitably met and their connection to the gang culture can be challenged and severed (Ofsted/Good Practice Resources, 2012).

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER 3: METHODOLOGY

Research Methods/Paradigm

Research Approach/Strategy

Data Collection

Reliability and Validity

According to (Fischer, 2005), methodology is described as the strategy used in gathering and analysing data, therefore to gain a better understanding about this research work, this section discusses the methodology and data collection techniques that were used in this research work. The Researcherwill be discussing the research methods/paradigms; the research approach/strategy; the data collection methods chosen for this research and the reasons for the choices made; and the researcher’s efforts to ensure reliability and the validity of the findings.

3.1 Research Methods/Paradigm

A research method ‘is a perspective about research held by a community of researchers that is based on a set of shared assumptions, concepts, values and practices’ (Cohen, et al. 2011; Johnson and Christenson, 2010:31; and Kumar 2008).  This research investigated individual viewpoints of young people and their practitioners on the gang culture in Lewisham Borough, and since they all have differing opinion, they must be interpreted accordingly. Therefore, quantitative (positivist) and qualitative (interpretivist) methods wereused in this research to understand differing perspectives and to achieve triangulation in order to be able to gain an in depth understanding of the young people’s experiences (Monette, et al. 2010).

A quantitative research which is otherwise known as positivist is a form of research that put emphasis on quantity when collecting and analysing data, explicitly providing understanding through nonconcrete elucidation (Johnson and Christenson, 2010; and Monette, et al. 2010). Nevertheless, a qualitative research or an interpretivist method helps the researcher to achieve a subjective understanding, that is, viewing and experiencing the situation from the young people’s perspective by befriending and engaging them for a longer period in order to gain an in-depth understanding of their live experiences, this understanding is however gained through empathy or mutuality (Monette, et al.2010).

3.2 Research Approach/Strategy

According to Singh and Bajpai (2008: 164), research strategy ‘is a generalised plan for a problem which includes structure, desired solution in terms of objectives research and an outline of planned devices necessary to implement the strategy.’  Thus in finding out solution to an identified issue which is substantiating whether BYP are more likely to be involved in gang than WYP in the Borough, the research used a case study approach because it provided detailed account which helped in relating the data gathered and the unknown aspect of the issue to bring about solution to the intended problem (Kuman, 2008). However, the research methodology helped the researcher to be aware of the values, concepts, ideologies and philosophies that highlights the complete research system which informed the question the research ascertained, analysed, and the literatures that were read(Clough and Nutbrown, 2002).

3.3 Data Collection

The data collections techniques used in this dissertation are: questionnaires; documents and records from Lewisham Council websites and other agencies; semi-structured interviews; focus groups and literature review.

3.3.1Questionnaires

A questionnaires technique was used in order to gain the authentic knowledge of discussion scientifically from the marginalised and disadvantaged young people in a setting that support them into further education and apprenticeship. They adopted semi-structure design with open questions and multiple choices to capture range of responses from general to specific.  Open questions is chosen because it provided an in-depth information on the research questions, while multiple questions was easy to analyse, however it gives limited insight to why they are doing it(Cohen, et al. 2011).   The reason for this choice was to be able to reach larger population and reduce the biasness that the researcher’s physical presence could pose on the answers (Singh and Bajpai, 2008; and Robson, 2007). However, the respondents are likely to misconstrue the questions (Singh and Bajpai, 2008).

3.3.2Documents and Records from Lewisham Council websites and other Agencies

Ranges of statistical information were extracted from Lewisham Council websites and other agencies to determine the statistic of white and black young people’s involvement in gang culture in the Borough and the reasons behind this involvement.

3.3.3 Semi-structured Interviews

Semi-structure interview was adopted in this research with the youth practitioners which gave the researcher one-to-one opportunity to probe further the fundamental principle behind gang culture among young people; its impact on the community in general and their views on how to eradicate if possible or reduce gang culture in the community. This was chosen because it affords flexibility which gives room to discuss any unplanned questions which could be generated during the interview session; it gives the researcher the opportunity to plan ahead and to stay in control of the discussion. However, conscious effort on the part of the interviewer was required not to allow the research to be drifted away from the main focus or subject of discussion which actually happened, and to be mindful of time, questionnaires did not give the researcher the opportunity to elucidate the vague answers; neither did it give the advantage of using facial expression to follow verbal and non-verbal cues with the potential of collecting rich data (Robson, 2007).

3.3.4Focus Groups

The research adopted focus group interviews with young people and their practitioners in order to enhance the research work because it allowed the participants to present their views on the research question in a non-threating condition, as well as giving insights into their attitudes, perception and opinion (Krueger, 1994).

3.3.5Literature Search

In order to get an earlier and better understanding whether BYT are more likely to join a gang than their contemporary white, the researcher employed current and past text books, journals, articles, government publications as well as internet written by researchers, scholars and practitioners that discussed on the research question to gain a background knowledge and an in-depth information (Fink, 2005) cited in Blaxter, et al. 2006)

  • Reliability and Validity

Reliability and validity are essential requirements in every research work, therefore to ensure that this research measures what it intends to do, it is imperative that the researcher uses varieties of data gathering techniques to inform the research work as well as ensuring that the data gathered can be relied upon (Robson, 2007). As a result of this, the researcher ensures that the young people that participated in the research work were not influenced in any way or intimidated to get facts from them which could have influenced the reliability of the dissertation.  However, it is not unlikely that the information supplied by them is absolutely accurate which could have brought up biasness.

Furthermore, documents and records from councils and other agencies are liable to be influenced by the interest of the Researchers; for instance those literatures written by campaign groups, government publications, and media have the tendencies to over emphasise on the plight of the people they are representing. So also, scholars, researchers and practitioners’ view points on the subject of discussion depend on their background and role within youth service.

Consequently, researcher ensures that all these factors were taken into consideration when analysing all the data by comparing the primary data gathered through questionnaires, focus group interviews and interview with young people and their practitioners with the secondary data, that is, journal, articles, textbooks, documents and records from Lewisham council and other agencies in order to have information that is close to the actuality.

 

CHAPTER 4: ETHICAL CONSIDERATIONS

Informed Consent

Confidentiality

Benefits of the research work

Possible risks

Every research work is subject to three main phases which are progress, discovery and improvement base on the researchers understanding. Therefore, for the research work to be acceptable the investigation must be ethical, that is, the expected pattern of behaviour and practical procedures that guide the research must be upheld by the researcher(Walsh and Wigens, 2003).    Nevertheless, researcher need not dwell so much on the big ethical subjects that characterise research (Walsh and Wigens, 2003).   The researcher focuses on protecting the interest of the young people as participants rather than anything else.

 

4.1 Informed Consent

The research was carried out at two different settings; youth club and organisation that provides apprenticeship training and supports for young people. Consent form was given to venue coordinators who are the gatekeepers of the settings as they could decide whether they want the research to be done or not and subsequently to the young people as a way of letting them know what they are consenting to, as well as having informed choices (Fleming and Boeck, 2012; and Banks, 2010).

However, the risk to be taken by participants should not surpass the potential humanitarian benefits of the knowledge gained, and that the research should not be invasive than it has to be (Freda and Kearney, 2005).

4.2 Confidentiality

The researcher informed the participants and their practitioners prior to the commencement of the research the need to adhere strictly to confidentiality and anonymity so that their identities are conceal when analysing and reporting the concluded research, (Bell, 2010). Their permission was obtained through consent form which explained the purpose of the research and their rights, what they will be agreeing to and their choice to opt out when necessary or not to attend if they are not willing to(Miller and Brewer, 2003). All the data gathered are kept in a folder and locked in the researcher’s cabinet at home; the participants are referred to as A, B, C, and D. The researcher administered the questionnaire to the young people and collected them so that the information supplied will not be known to those in the office as a way of maintaining confidentiality.

4.3 Benefits of the Research Work

The concluded research will help to reduce the biasness the community have towards black young people as a result of the impression created by the media, and to challenge those in authorities in the borough and other agencies working with young people on the measures that will produce positive outcome among young blacks; as well as the best provision to be made for these young people most especially black youth within the community to support them out of gang culture as recommended by the young people themselves.

4.4 Possible Risks

The nature of the research work makes the researcher to be unwilling to continue, as it involved meeting with the young people that are actually involved in the gang activities, as she was thinking about her safety when the questionnaires will be administered and after contact with them within the community.  However, the researcher on the other hand thought of the impact the research could achieve most especially in the community; among young people and the agencies working with them, thus the research was conducted.

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER 5: DISCUSSION OF FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS

This section will be analysing the research findings on whether black young people in the London Borough of Lewisham are more likely to join a gang than their contemporary white. The first section will draw evidence from questionnaires given to the young people; the second will analyse the focus group interviews with the young people in the settings with their practitioners while the third section will explore the interviews with the youth practitioners. Once the data was collected; the interview questions and responses were put in a summary sheet while questionnaires were made into summary table. All these were synthesized together to form the basis for the discussion and to see implication of the view held on the BYP in the London Borough of Lewisham as a result of the media’s representation. The researcher used different themes to examine if they matched with the responses from the questionnaires; focus group interviews with YP and their practitioners; as well as interviews with the practitioners.

Which ethnicity is likely more involved in gang culture.

According to Ethnicity/Lewisham Joint Strategic Needs Assessment (JSNA), it is apparent that Lewisham borough being an ethnically diverse community with the black population higher than the white population could have the tendency of more black representation in gang and gang culture because the research carried out by the Centre for Social Justice reveals that the ethnicity of the gang members in every community reflects the ethnicity of the population within the area (the Centre for Social Justice, 2009).

Thus from the data gathered: findings from the questionnaires administered on YP from BTY, the sample of twenty two population gathered from White British, Black British, Caribbean, and others, which shared equally between male and female sex. Out of the males, two of them from white British admitted to have been members of gang, while one out of the female population from ‘others’ admitted being involved in gang.

However, with the focus group interview with YP and their practitioners, it was revealed that ‘black and minority ethnicities’(BME) group are more likely to be involved in gang because they have higher population when compared with white community; while interview with the youth practitioners revealed that the largest ethnicity in the Borough still remains white community.

The researcher’s view on this issue raised is that the evidences depict the fact that there is no white gang in Lewisham Borough, and that gang culture exist among BYP as well as WYP as one cannot categorically say that BYP are likely to be more involved in gang. From the sample, twelve out of the population for questionnaires were actually white British with four respondents being male and have been living in the borough since birth. However, one respondent out of the four respondents said he has been involved in gang activity while the last one respondent is from Bromley and has lived there for more than five years.

While analysing the female’s sample, it was discovered that five respondents out of the sample of twelve were white British, with two respondents to have been living in the community since birth; two respondents for less than five years of which one respondent said she has been involved in gang activities, while the last respondent has been there for more than five years.

 

Young people’s perspective of gang

In an attempt to get understanding of what a gang culture meant to the young people in Lewisham borough, several definition came up.

From the questionnaires: ‘group of people who shared the same thoughts and opinions’, ‘something popular within the younger generation’, ‘groups of individual who goes about committing crime’, ‘peer    pressure, belonging’, ‘groups who likes to have fun, with same purpose, madness’, ‘drive to gain money, power and street respect often by criminal means’, ‘a waste of time’, ‘drugs and violence’.

While with the focus group interview with the YP and their practitioners, gang is defined as ‘groups of friends involved with crime, gangs and violence’; ‘groups on the street looking for trouble’.

Interview with the practitioner gave rise to this definitions, ‘group of YP that support you to go through your life experiences’; ‘group of people, mostly friends, hanging around on the streets because there is no love at home, so they find it within their gangs for sense of security and fitting in’; ‘group of people coming together for specific purpose which could be positive or negative’.

However, from the literatures, Miller’s definition of gang was found to be most prominent in the USA ‘a group of recurrently associating individuals with identifiable leadership and internal organisation, identifying with or claiming control over territory in the community, and engaging either individually or collectively in violent or other forms of illegal behaviour’(Miller, 1982cited in Pitts, 2007:10).

In UK, the definition set out by the Centre for Social Justice in Dying to Belong defines gang as ‘a relatively durable, predominantly street-based group of young people who: (1) see themselves (and are seen by others) as a discernible group; (2) engage in criminal activity and violence; (3) lay claim over territory (this is not necessary geographical territory but can include an illegal economy territory); (4) have some form of identifying structural feature; and (5) are in conflict with other, similar gangs’(the Centre for Social Justice,2009:21).Despite the agreement in the definitions, it is further discovered that some group of young people come together for sincere relationship rather than for violence (Barter and Berridge, 2011).

Additionally, it has been argued that nearly all those who have affiliation with an informal group are considered to be gang member despite the fact that they are not criminals (Bullock and Tilley 2002). They are often at times vilified for hanging out in group because of the societal expectation of their gathering is always negative(Carrington and Pereira, 2010 and Millie, et al. 2005). Furthermore, Willmott’s1966 survey in East London reveals that it is normal for young people of age eighteen to go from place to place in small groups (Farrington and West, 1977).

However, the researcher’s view on this is that young people should not be denied the opportunity to fellowship together, most especially when it comes to drawing strength from one another which can only be provided by the peer group, and that everyone should desist from being judgemental and that the community should look beyond whatever image that have been created and work together to support them in attaining their potential as member of the community.

 

What are the factors  influencing the representation onBYP and gang culture in Lewisham Borough

Misinterpretation: According to (Gordon, 2002), the media and police are likely identify a delinquent group within the community as a gang member; thus increases the misrepresentation within the borough whenever there is any delinquency which is an inappropriate behaviour that can cause harm to the individual as well as to others (Gottfredson and Hirschi, 1990; cited in Gottfredson, 2004).Stereotype: Stereotypical image given to BYP as portray by media as a result of criminal activities of some of them (Marshall, et al. 2005). Labelling:Labelling the group hanging around as potential criminals (Hallsworth and Young, 2004). Disadvantaged:BME group are said to be disadvantaged in social and economic terms when compared with WYP (Fahy, 2007) for instance poor housing scheme, thus making them to always find comfort with their friends on the street.

All the above mentioned factors in the secondary data,also buttress the reasons given by the young people in the focus group interview with their practitioners. However, they added that‘the media glamourizing musicians and video stars on television makes the lifestyle appealing to YP; and news stories on gang make some YP wanting to try it out’.

While youth practitioners arguments were ‘media’s representation on BYP’, and that ‘other ethnicities involvement are not given serious publicity’, thus buttressing Diamond’s arguments that the manner in which the YB are being criminalised could been seen as being stereotype, most especially the media’s approach to it, to the extent that even if the so crime is committed by their contemporary white it does not receive much publicity as it could have been for BYP (Diamond, 1988).

Consequently(Baroness Scotland of Asthal, 2007) calls for equality and fairness in criminal justice for all irrespective of their race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation or faith, and that police should be mindful of the word they use when addressing BYP. Researcher’s view on this fact remains the same with the evidences gathered from literatures.

Support and selfish interests: Siegel and Welsh (2011) argue that the need to acquire material things, seeking place to belong or attention which cannot be enjoyed at home, need to earn respect or fear that others exhibit around them because of being a gang member, the need to gain power, drug profits, family dysfunction, and natural consequence of the economic and social dislocation have been some of the driving force that motivate youngsters in gang. Also, reliance on their peer for emotional, financial and social support in the absence of parental and community support, Firmin et al. (2007) cited in Barter and Berridge (2011).

However, from the questionnaire, from the population of eleven males, two agreed on ‘deprivation’, two on ‘power/respects’, one said ‘money’, two said ‘all’; three said ‘power/respect and money’ while two believed that ‘deprivation, power/respect and money’ could be the driving force for YP involvement in gang. From the female populations, six agreed on ‘power/respect’, and one said ‘deprivation, power/respect and money could be the motivating factors.

Samples from focus group interviews with YP and their practitioners and the interview with practitioners supported the literature evidences.

Diversity in Housing Scheme:Conversely (Wood and Landry, 2008) argument is based on lack of diversity in the housing scheme which makes it impossible for children and young people to thrive well because of the situation they found themselves, for instance overcrowded accommodations thus encouraging young people to spend lots of time on the streets with friends rather than being at home, it also affect their academic performance and concentration of particular ethnicity within a community.

According to the interview with Meadow practitioners, they said the media and the home circumstances are the reason for the proportion of BYP involvement in gang which further buttress the contribution from literatures.

However, according to the researcher if the above mentioned views are true about factors motivating BYP into gang; then the housing authoritiesshould always allocate accommodation to people according to their housing needs, and decentralise the same ethnicity within a particular area will go a long way in proving the community a safe place to live.

 

Impacts of media’s reporting and MET statistic on BYP in Lewisham Borough

Generally speaking, the media representation of gang among young people is untrue (Cox, 2011), ‘crime narratives and representatives are and have always been, a prominent part of the content of all mass media’ (Reiner, 2007: 305). The sources are from newspapers and television documentaries which shape the public perceptions on crime and the risk involved (Treadwell, 2006 cited in Cox, 2011). Some of which are very terrifying and sadden and ended up creating an unnecessary panic in the community, which (Young, 2009 cited in Cox (2011) argues that most of the medias representations are just assumptions without no evidence.  ‘There is no evidence to suggest that any rises in gun or knife offences are gang related, and that crime rates overall are falling’, Cox, (2011: 11). It has also been statistically proven that the number of teenage death is stable, Wood (2010). Therefore, the Centre for Social Justice Report says is not expected of the police to be recording group involvement of any sort in the main data systems, (the Centre for Social Justice, 2009). Consequently, ‘any statistical evidence quoted by the media, researchers and politicians is usually based on violent crime data rather than specific data on gang crime’, Cox, (2011: 13). However, as a result of underreporting, statistics should not be taken at face value because of reliability, Cox (2011).

According to the focus group interviews, the YP said the media focuses negatively on black people’, stereotype, exaggeration and these attitudes of the media are wrong’

The youth practitioners also said that ‘television manipulates the society as they sometimes create unnecessary panic through the over exaggeration of situations including gang culture’.

The researcher’s view on the issue is that police and the media should not be bias when dealing with sensitive issue like gang amongst YP, especially BYP, as their evidence goes a long way in strengthening the relationship between young people and the rest of the society.

 

CONCLUSION

The term ‘gang’ is not a new phenomenon; however it is attracting more attention in Lewisham Borough, most especially with the recent news from Channel 4 on the 24 April 2013, named Lewisham as the ‘least peaceful’ place in the UK (Brooks, 2013). This research aimed at finding out whether it is evidently proven that BYP are more likely to be involved in gang than their contemporary white in the London Borough of Lewisham or whether it is a media or political propaganda. Therefore, this research has critically examined several evidences from literatures, analysis drawn from questionnaires, focus group interviews and interviews with young people and their practitioners from ‘Be Totally You’ (BTY) and Meadows Estate Youth Club, it could be concluded that both BYP and WYP are equally involve in gang culture within the borough.

This research was able to discover that gang culture truly exist in the borough, nevertheless, the manner and approach of media and met police in their reporting and statistical data revealed that they have been over exaggerating gang culture most especially among the BYP. From the research work, it seems that the impact created by the media and the Met police through their reporting and statistical data release cannot be underrated as it has led to the public perception on BYP and has succeeded in creating unrest within the community because most of media’s representations are based on assumptions without no evidence, (Young, 2009) cited in (Cox, 2011). For instance, ambiguity in the reporting of common occurrence (Jewkes 2004);police stereotyping on BYP to assume that every BYP could be in possession of weapon on the street thus increase ‘stop and search’ amongst young blacks. Amplifying violent crime by the media based on societal expectation and marketing strategies (Newburn 2007); ‘a perception that guns’ can be easily used (the Centre for Social Justice, 2009: 63) in territorial dispute amongst gang and because of YP are in possession of weapons and are luring children into gang (BBC News, 2008)

One of the limitations of this research is time allocated in doing this research bearing in mind it was targeted on wider population using three different methods, and not been able to assess the targeted audience which is ex-gang member through Lewisham Youth Offending Team. Therefore, in the future if more time is allocated it will be possible to minimise the limitations.

 

 

 

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APPENDICES

Appendix 1:Questionnaires

  1. How will you define your ethnicity?

 White British          Black British            African           Caribbean           Others

  1. Which Borough do you live in?

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

  1. How long have you been living in that Borough?

 Since birth                        Less than 5 years                             More than 5 years

  1. What is your gender?

 Male                                                             Female

  1. What age group do you belong?

 16-18years     18-20 years        20-22 years        22-24 years     24 and above

  1. Have you ever had encounter with law enforcement agents?

   Never                                                    Yes

  1. If yes, for what? And how was it resolved?

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

  1. How can you define gang culture?

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

  1. What age group do you think are likely to join a gang?

 8-12                        12-16                      16-18                               18 and above

  1. What motivates young people into a gang culture?

 Deprivation                      Power/Respect                    Money                 Others

  1. If others, please state

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

  1. How do you think young people are initiated into gangs?

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

  1. Have you ever being involved in any gang activity?

     Yes                                                 No (if no go to question 27)

  1. If yes, how can you describe your activities within the group?

    Leader                               Member                                  Supporter

  1. Have you had any confrontation with the law because of gang related activity/offence?

    Yes                                                 No                                           Not really

  1. What was it like being in a gang?

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

  1. Did you get the desired satisfaction from being a gang member?

     Yes                                                                   No

  1. If no, why?

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

  1. Can you state why you gave up gang culture?

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

  1. Have you ever been involved in territorial dispute with rivalry gang?

     Yes                                                                   No

  1. If yes, how was it resolved?

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

  1. Have you been receiving any support since you quit gang?

     Yes                                                            No

  1. If yes, are they meeting your need?

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

  1. Is there anything you will like to be put in place by the local council and independent bodies to support you better in this period?

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

  1. What advice do you have for the next/future generation?

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

  1. Are there opportunities or activities within the borough that can help divert young people away from gang? If yes? Are they enough and meeting the desired need?

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

  1. If no, what prevented you from joining?

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

  1. What advice do you have for the coming generation?

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Appendix 2: Interview Schedule

INTERVIEW QUESTIONS

Hi, my name is I am conducting a research on the gang involvement among young people, to investigate whether it is evidently proven that black young people in the London Borough of Lewisham would be involved in gang culture than their contemporary white, or whether it is just political or media propaganda. I am a year 3 student in Youth Studies from University of East London. Thank you for attending this interview. Do you mind if I record this interview?

Focus Group Interviews with Young Person

  1. Explain the term gang culture?
  2. In your view, do you think gang or gang culture exist in Lewisham Borough?
  3. If yes, who are the people you think might be at risk of this culture? (Young, old, ethnicity)
  4. What is your view about gang culture amongst young people?
  5. Do you think opportunities or activities could help divert young people away from gang?
  6. If truly gang culture exists, what do you think can be done to salvage the situation of gang culture within the borough?
  7. How can you define black community/ethnicity?
  8. In your own opinion, do you think black young people are more involve in gang than white young people? If yes, what do you think is responsible for this?
  9. What is the impact of the Medias’ report on gang culture?
  10. What is your opinion about the media’s report/the MET statisticon the number of young black people’s involvement in gang?
  11. What do you think is the reason for this?
  12. What do you think is the largest ethnicity in the borough?
  13. What is the community’s response to the method of policing employ by the police in Lewisham borough?
  14. Do you agree that there is a particular problem affecting the black community?
  15. Do you agree that young black male are stigmatised? If yes, what is the impact of this on young black?

 

Interview with their practitioners

  1. What do you understand by the term gang culture?
  2. What is the impact of gang on young people?
  3. Do you think opportunities or activities could help divert young people away from gang?
  4. What do you think can be done to salvage the situation of gang culture within the borough?
  5. What can you say about the support receive from the local council and other bodies in discharging your duty within the community?
  6. Does the media representation of young people cause moral panic in relation to gang culture within the borough?
  7. In your own opinion do you think that there are types of crime/offences committed by difference ethnic groups within the borough?
  8. If yes, can you please give example that is unique to each ethnic group identified?
  9. Do you think gang activities happen mostly amongst young black minorities? If so which one?
  10. Can you please give a rough percentage of gang involvement between black and white young people in the borough?
  11. How do you feel when you hear reports based on gang activity in media?
  12. Do you think negative influences have been created around young people as a result of Medias’ reporting?
  13. What do you think can be done to correct the negative influence that has been created by the media?
  14. In your opinion, what do you think is responsible for number of black young people in gang?
  15. What is your opinion about the media’s report/the MET statistic on the number of young black people’s involvement in gang?
  16. What do you think is the responsible for this?
  17. What do you think is the largest Ethnicity in the borough?
  18. What is the community’s response to the method of policing employ by the police in Lewisham borough?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Appendix 3: Summary Sheet

Interview with Young people and their Practitioners

With the focus group interviews with young people and their practitioners in Meadows Estate Youth Club Community Centre, the researcher discovered that the definitions of young people about the gang culture: ‘groups of friends involved with crime, gangs and violence’;’ groups on the street looking for trouble’; and ‘wanting to be in the group on the street’. When asked furtherwhether gang culture exist in Lewisham: they all answered ‘yes’. The people that are at risk of gang culture as identified: most of them answered ‘anyone’, while others added, ‘old people on the street’; ‘black and Asian people are at higher risk’; ‘anyone on the street at the wrong time, and all ethnicities are at risk’; and lastly their age group, because they are not as busy like adults, easily led, seek protection, gullible’. When askedtheir view about gang culture amongst young people, majority answered ‘it is stupid’; ‘bad’ ‘not being safe’; ‘they rob you’; while few added’ it’s good for protection and reputation’.

The researcher asked whether opportunities or activities could help divert young people away from gang: some said ‘yes, but not enough’; majority said ‘workshops on gang culture can help to have better understanding on it, activities like football and performing arts may help divert them from gangs’. What can be done to salvage gang culture if truly it exist: they said ‘workshops on gang culture and engineering’; ‘sporting activities like badminton, football, skating clubs’; ‘more CCTV’; ‘more street light’; and ‘activities that reveals young people’s experience with gang’.Definition of black community/ethnicity: someone said ‘I think it is bad, the question is racist’ while others added ‘another race other than white’; normal people that should not be targeted’; defined black community with their dressing, for instance, sagging and hoody’.Whether BYP are more involved in gang than WYP: majority answered ‘yes’ while others said ‘other culture are equally involved’, and what is responsible for this: ‘because black has higher population in Lewisham’; ‘the media portrays that BYP are more involved than WYP’; ‘the media glamourizing musicians and video stars on television makes the lifestyle appealing to YP; and news stories on gang make some YP wanting to try out’.

The impact of media’s report on gang culture: ‘the media has a huge impact on gang culture as some YP learnt it through what they watch or listen to on media’; ‘older generation are scared of YP because is always on the news thus making YP to turn to it as their only choice’; and ‘prejudice against BYP’Their opinion on media’s report and MET statistic on BYP involvement in gang: ‘exaggeration’; ‘focuses on black’; ‘it is wrong’; ‘stereotype’. The reasons for this: majority said ‘to create an unnecessary panicking in the society about BYP’; others said ‘may be to warn people about gang’. The largest ethnicity in the borough: majority said ‘more white people’; ‘equally mixed’; while others said ‘more black people’. Community’s response to the method of policing employ by police in Lewisham: ‘community should ensure that YP are more occupied’; ‘YP hate police because of stop and search for stupid reasons’; ‘they are racist’; ‘they are not really helping as they should’; and ‘older generation and children love police because they are in their favour’. The researcher asked to knowwhether there is a particular problem affecting black community: they all answered ‘yes’.Whether young black male are stigmatised: they all answered ‘yes’;the impact of this on young blacks: ‘the BYP are fulfilling what the media is portraying about them’ and ‘difficulty in getting employment’.

 

Interview with Youth Practitioners

Definition on gang culture: ‘group of YP that support you to go through your life experiences’; ‘group of people, mostly friends, hanging around on the streets because there is no love at home, so they find it within their gangs for sense of security and fitting in’; ‘group of people coming together for specific purpose which could be positive or negative’. The impact of gang on YP: killing’; ‘stabbing’; ‘imprisonment’; ‘it could be positive- safety and happiness’; or negative- violence, crime, killing, serious injured, and jail’. Can opportunities and activities divert YP from gang:no, if YP are already in gang it would not help change their mind set; however, they need someone to befriend them, show them alternative opportunities’; ‘some do not have means of attending activities’; ‘while others may think they will not fit in’.Salvaging gang culture: early intervention to identify those YP that might be at risk and putting support in place for them so that they can channel their energy positively’; more reactive activities’; more sporting venues and sport competition; ‘empower parents to discipline their children right from when it matters than when they have grown out of hands’ ‘schools’ curriculum should be flexible and teaches life skills’; schools to support YP with initiative programme that will warn them of danger of gang- for instance, ex-gang member coming to talk YP away from gang’.

 

Support from local council and other bodies: not enough to do what need to be done’; ‘continuous funding- to have long term support for them’. Media representation of YP (moral panic): ‘yes- television manipulates the society’; ‘obviously media plays good role in highlighting some of the hiding problems within the society, however; they sometimes create unnecessary panic through over exaggeration of situation’.On types of crime/ offences by divers’ ethnicgroup: ‘yes’. Examples of crime according to ethnic group: ‘white- alcohol, theft’  ‘black- drug trading, theft, vandalising properties, using knives and gun as weapon, jolly rides’; while Asians- grooming of young girls for sex’.Are gang activities predominantly amongst young black minorities?:media portray to be’; ‘lot of black on black however, other ethnicity involvement are not given serious publicity’.Percentage of gang involvement between black and white young people in the borough: ‘85% to 90%’.Feelings on reports about gang activity by media: ‘disturbing’; ‘they are helpless’. Does media’s report create negative influence?:‘yes’; ‘results in people becoming more racist’; ‘marketing strategies, and influence security’. Corrective measure: ‘stop generalising the issue of gang’; ‘target and challenge media to air positive things done by YP as well’. What is responsible for the high percentage of BYP in gang: ‘the media’; ‘home circumstances’.Media’s reports and Met Statistic on BYP gang involvement: ‘over exaggeration’; ‘not reporting gang activities from other ethnicities’; ‘more support to BYP if their involvement in gang is higher’.What is responsible for the reports?:‘not sure/known’; ‘BYP are marginalised’; ‘few options’. Largest ethnicity in the borough: ‘white’. Community’s response to policing method employed by police in Lewisham: ‘community desire more police’; ‘YP finds them annoying’.

 

 

Appendix 4: Consent Form

School Address

 

Hello,

RE: CONSENT LETTER

I am a final year student at University of East London. I am currently working on a research for my dissertation titled: ‘Are black young people in London Borough of Lewisham more likely to join a gang than their contemporary white? Fact or Fallacy?’

The research is to give more insight into gang culture within the Borough by enquiring into the following:

  • The factors that motivate young people into joining gang in Lewisham Borough
  • The media’s reporting and Metropolitan police statistical data on the young people and their gang involvement in London Borough of Lewisham.

 

  • The media’s reporting on young people and their gang involvement in the Borough
  • The measures put in place by Lewisham Council and other agencies to tackle the issue of gang culture in the Borough.

I guarantee that I will observe good ethical conduct throughout. Your identity will not be disclosed when analysing the data, any if you wish to opt out you can do so at any point, all the information gathered will be used for academic purpose only and upon conclusion of the research this information will be shredded. I will also ensure your wish/opinion is being respected.

If there be any query regarding this questionnaire, please do not hesitate to contact me on the above email address.

I will therefore request that the enclosed questionnaire be completed by you.

Thank for your anticipated support and participation.

Yours faithfully

Name

 

………………………………                                                      …………………………

Signature                                                          Date

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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