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Camden New Journal - by PAUL KEILTHY
Published: 04 October 2007
Chief Inspector Paul Morris
Chief Inspector Paul Morris
They have names like Massive and Posse but how serious is the gang threat on our streets?

Police and politicians urge caution when it comes to labelling groups of young people

IT started with a stabbing, an argument on the notorious 29 bus that ended in a swift and brutal knifing of a 17-year-old boy by one of a group of rival teenagers.
Word spread quickly, and by last Monday – three days after the attack in Tottenham Court Road – police were on alert for an outbreak of potentially lethal violence between pupils of two Camden schools seeking revenge and the assertion of teenage rights of territory.
Last Wednesday night, groups of youths clashed in Camden Town, and a teenager was arrested for a public order offence in Camden Road.
Fearing running battles between Camden Town and Hampstead, police employed the most comprehensive search power outside terrorism legislation – section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act, which allows officers to stop and search anyone in a defined area for weapons “in anticipation of violence”, without giving further grounds.
Was this a schoolboy rumble that fizzled out or a gang clash averted?
The term “gang” is a politically sensitive one. As the council’s Lib Dem community safety chief Councillor Ben Rawlings said on Tuesday: “I do think there are indications of an increase in gang membership and gang activity, and we mustn’t be complacent, but we have to be very careful about what we call gangs. Just because it’s a group of young people we shouldn’t assume they’re involved in organised criminal networks.”
Scotland Yard has historically been reluctant to give gangs publicity and in June refused a New Journal request under the Freedom of Information Act to release the names and criminal activities of gangs in Camden on the grounds that it could incite unnamed rival groups to commit more crime.
But in August, a council worker, thought to be from Southwark, inadvertently published on the internet a Met report into gangs in London which listed eight criminal groups in Camden.
They include the Camden Town-based Centric Boyz, named in the Old Bailey this year as being involved in a gang ­rivalry that ultimately led to the horrific Camden High Street killing of 18-year-old Mahir Osman in 2006. The Drummond Street Posse from Euston, another group named, were implicated in the murder of Somers Town teenager Richard Everitt in 1994.
The list included Crom­er Street Massive from King’s Cross, whose feuds with the Drummond Street Posse were said to lie behind street clashes in 2003 that left a man stabbed through the chest with a pitchfork.
Another group, the Denton Boys, are named after the Denton estate in Kentish Town where police have spent three years fielding criticism from residents over their perceived failure to stop youth crime in Malden Road. On Monday night a 22-year-old man was surrounded by a group of youths in Malden Road and robbed by a teenager who threatened to stab him.
Chief Inspector Paul Morris is responsible for a community policing brief that includes monitoring gang activity. He told the New Journal he is looking closely at levels of criminality among groups of young people to prevent outbreaks of reciprocal violence of the kind that Camden has so far been largely spared.
He said: “Have we got any major gangs? We’ve got a couple that we are concerned about on a criminal level, and we have to take them seriously. The problem is that we can’t be critical of people grouping themselves together. That has always happened and it has always happened geographically.
“You get a group of youths who meet up on the street of a night and eventually they say: ‘What do we call ourselves.’ There’s nothing sinister in that. It is when they organise for crime that it does become serious. Then there’s a chance that someone could get killed.”
Chief Insp Morris declined to name the most dangerous gangs – “it could give them courage around criminality” – and community leaders and young people contacted by the New Journal suggested the Met’s list was out of date.
New Journal enquiries failed to establish the existence one of the named groups, the Born Sick Gang, and little about the NW1 Boyz. But Bloomsbury-based WC1 Gang and Kentish Town-based Peckwater Gang are well known to police. As with all of the gangs named in the report, senior police officers make clear that the levels of posturing by gangs can exaggerate their criminal impact.

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