Sophisticated gangs targeting social media
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