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Glasgow gang members offered way out of violent lifestyle

BMJ 2008; 337 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.a2972 (Published 10 December 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;337:a2972
  1. Zosia Kmietowicz
  1. 1London

    Strathclyde police have launched a scheme that they hope will see up to 500 young men reject gang violence in Glasgow’s east end.

    Under the initiative, men who promise to give up their gang membership are given the chance of a new life—a personal care worker along with access to health services, education, careers’ advice, leisure and other diversion activities, and housing.

    The £5m (€6m; $7m) initiative, which is funded by the Scottish government, is based on the Cincinnati Ceasefire project. It treats the gang as a unit rather than as individuals and gets the gang to police its own behaviour.

    Gang members are invited to take part in a carefully scripted meeting, where they are addressed by a police officer, an emergency medicine consultant, a parent of a victim, and others, each giving their experience of gang culture. For example, the consultant will talk about the problems of trying to patch up victims and offenders.

    Although the gang members are told that they will all be going home after the meeting, they are warned that if any member of the gang commits an assault or murder the whole group will be pursued. So far 63 members have taken up the offer of help.

    “Our message is clear,” said detective chief inspector Andy McKay, who heads the initiative for the violence reduction unit. “The violence must stop. Young men involved in gangs are one of the most at risk groups in Glasgow, and the corrosive effect of their behaviour on their communities is profound. We want to help these young men turn their lives around—we want them educated, we want them working, and most of all we want them safe.”

    The murder rate involving a knife in Scotland is 3.5 times higher than in England and Wales and similar to that in Argentina. A total of 73 murders and 4050 serious assaults were reported in Strathclyde in the past year, 55% and 31% involving a knife respectively. Hospitals in Glasgow treat a serious facial injury every six hours.

    Peter Donnelly, professor of public health at the University of St Andrew’s, who will be evaluating the scheme, says that the police now recognise gangland violence as a public health problem.

    If the project is a success, it is hoped it will be started in other parts of Glasgow.

    Notes

    Cite this as: BMJ 2008;337:a2972

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