POST TIME: 10 July, 2018 00:00 00 AM
Effective prevention of gang violence
Damien McElroy

Effective prevention of gang violence

At the mid-point of 2017, the British capital was on the receiving end of multiple terror attacks by Islamic extremists. Since crowded public areas were targeted primarily, the attacks sowed uncertainty over personal safety in the city's streets. Thankfully, there has been some respite from that threat, but 12 months on citizens of the city feel no more secure. In recent months, scores of mainly young and black men have died in violent stabbing incidents. The finger of blame has been pointed at Drill music videos: self-uploaded gang-based music productions on YouTube, filled with violent lyrics.

But this music, along with another scourge, drug abuse, make for a deadly combination. Increasingly, users are combining illegal and prescription psychotropic substances into strong drug cocktails.

The specific state of absorbing materials that make the user paranoid, while listening to music filled with threats of stabbing, heightens substantially the temptation to go out and stab someone. The link between these two forms of violence – gang-related and extremist – is that the menace essentially comes from the same sources.

There was a myth about Al Qaeda that it was a product of the middle class and tertiary-educated. In fact, it drew from the same well as gangs.

A database run by the French expert, Olivier Roy, showed that 50 per cent of extremists between 1994 and 2016 had criminal records. But the myth, nevertheless, took hold in popular thinking.

Studies of those recruited to ISIS show the latest generation of extremist fighters are, like the assailants caught up in London street crime, from the lowest rungs of the social ladder.

ISIS exploits the social grievances prevalent in streets gangs and crime syndicates.

An illuminating report issued on Thursday by King’s College International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR) looked at how the very youngest are cultivated and exploited by ISIS extremists.

Its main theme centres on “hyper-normalised” attitudes to violence and brutality. The structural blueprint used by ISIS is to recruit from infancy through to adulthood. While the study concentrated on the children recruited into ISIS ranks, there were wider lessons on the importance of desensitisation.

ICSR points out that ISIS cultivates anger and violence from the very outset. From mothers raising the so-called ISIS Cubs, the group demands ideological myth telling. Fairy tales are replaced with propaganda. Adult influencers of the Cubs instill in them a warped and simplified piety.

When it comes to young men, an intensely masculine outlook on the world accelerates recruitment.

Studies of the foreign fighters that have joined ISIS underline the group’s appeal to those that are ill-educated and often have had trouble with the law. “[ISIS recruits are] male, young and disadvantaged economically, educationally, and in terms of the labour market,” said a report by the UN Office on Counter-Terrorism.

Jeremy Moss, a British policeman who wrote an earlier ICSR report, said almost half the British recruits to ISIS were from criminal backgrounds.