So­phis­ti­cated gangs tar­get­ing so­cial me­dia

Uxbridge Gazette - - News - By QASIM PERACHA qasim.peracha@trin­i­tymir­ Twit­ter: @qasim­per­acha

ONE of Bri­tain’s lead­ing crim­i­nol­o­gists has warned there are so­phis­ti­cated gangs us­ing so­cial me­dia to sell drugs and re­cruit new mem­bers.

Dr Si­mon Hard­ing, an associate pro­fes­sor at Uni­ver­sity of West Lon­don, told the Gazette that as many as 200 gangs are op­er­at­ing in the cap­i­tal, all of which have “some on­line so­cial me­dia pres­ence”.

“It’s all changed over the last five years,” he said. “The gang ac­tiv­ity we used to see tak­ing place in com­mu­ni­ties and neigh­bour­hoods now takes place on­line.

“It can be any­thing from buy­ing and sell­ing drugs to re­cruit­ing new mem­bers or even in­di­vid­u­als build­ing their own brand. Of­ten gangs will boast about the qual­ity of their drugs, mainly Class A drugs, as well as us­ing it for sur­veil­lance”.

Gangs have also been known to taunt each other, some­times to deadly ef­fect, the ur­ban street gangs ex­pert added.

Dr Hard­ing said: “Lots of this ac­tiv­ity has led di­rectly to stab­bings in Lon­don as well as Birm­ing­ham, Manch­ester and other big cities.

“If some­one makes a drill rap song specif­i­cally men­tion­ing you, not just your gang or your post­code, specif­i­cally bad­mouthing your mother or your grand­mother, how would you re­act?”

His com­ments came af­ter it was an­nounced by the Home Sec­re­tary Sa­jid Javid, on Mon­day June 18, that £1.38 mil­lion is be­ing in­vested to cre­ate a task­force of 20 po­lice staff through Met­ro­pol­i­tan Po­lice, who will re­port gang re­lated on­line ma­te­rial on sites such as Twit­ter, Face­book and YouTube to tech com­pa­nies for re­moval.

The Home Sec­re­tary held a meet­ing with Google and Face­book rep­re­sen­ta­tives to ex­plain the pre­ven­ta­tive mea­sures be­ing taken to re­move overt and covert gang-re­lated ma­te­rial.

The new task­force will also use their sur­veil­lance to pre­vent gang vi­o­lence on the streets of the cap­i­tal, by iden­ti­fy­ing the mes­sages which gen­er­ate the high­est risk of vi­o­lence.

Mr Javid said: “Street gangs are in­creas­ingly us­ing so­cial me­dia as a plat­form to in­cite vi­o­lence, taunt each other and pro­mote crime. This is a ma­jor con­cern and I want com­pa­nies such as Face­book and Google to do more. We are tak­ing ur­gent ac­tion and the new so­cial me­dia hub will im­prove the po­lice’s abil­ity to iden­tify and re­move this dan­ger­ous con­tent.”

A par­tic­u­lar area of grow­ing con­cern for po­lice in Lon­don is “drill rap”, a genre of street mu­sic which of­ten in­volves brag­ging about crim­i­nal ex­ploits and taunt­ing ri­vals.

In Novem­ber 2017, a gang of five young men aged 17-21, all part of a Not­ting Hill gang, were stopped by po­lice as they were about to launch an at­tack on a ri­val Shep­herd’s Bush gang while armed with ma­chetes and base­ball bats.

The gang mem­bers were re­tal­i­at­ing af­ter a film show­ing ha­rass­ment and abuse of the grand­mother of two of the boys by the Shep­herd’s Bush gang was posted first on Snapchat and then on YouTube. The cap­tion on the video read “Hor­r1d come get your nan”, Hor­r1d be­ing one of the grand­son’s street names.

The Not­ting Hill gang was it­self in­volved in mak­ing drill mu­sic videos which were posted on YouTube but have since been taken down. One of their songs, “No Hook”, spoke openly about shoot­ing ri­vals down on streets.

The gang mem­bers were handed var­i­ous sen­tences for con­spir­acy to com­mit vi­o­lent dis­or­der on June 11, but af­ter a spe­cial hear­ing on Fri­day June 1 they were also handed three­year bans from mak­ing mu­sic or post­ing con­tent on so­cial me­dia if it did any of the fol­low­ing:

■ In­cite or en­cour­age vi­o­lence against any in­di­vid­ual, group or gang by claim­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity for or threat­en­ing to com­mit acts of vi­o­lence

■ Make ref­er­ence to a num­ber of gangs or mem­bers of those gangs, ei­ther by their ac­tual names or pseu­do­nyms and street names

■ Make ref­er­ence to the death or in­jury of those gang mem­bers

■ Ref­er­ence spe­cific post codes

They can meet in pub­lic to make mu­sic, but only with po­lice au­tho­ri­sa­tion and must in­form po­lice of any new of­fi­cial mu­sic videos within 24 hours of pub­li­ca­tion.

“Drill and grime is sim­ply rep­re­sent­ing the lived ex­pe­ri­ences of some young peo­ple in de­prived ar­eas, but there are very spe­cific drill or trap raps aimed at in­di­vid­u­als and gangs to en­tice a vi­o­lent re­ac­tion,” said Dr Hard­ing.

Dun­can Ball, deputy as­sis­tant com­mis­sioner of the Met Po­lice and na­tional polic­ing lead for gangs, said: “By work­ing to­gether with so­cial me­dia com­pa­nies we will en­sure on­line ma­te­rial that glam­ourises mur­der, lures young peo­ple into a dan­ger­ous, vi­o­lent life of crime and en­cour­ages vi­o­lence is quickly dealt with to cut off this out­let for gangs and crim­i­nals.

Drill rap gangs have used so­cial me­dia

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