The National Centre for Gang Research (NCGR) centre will be based out of the University of West London. It is the first research centre of its kind to open in Western Europe.
The NCGR aims to study the causes and find solutions to rising gang violence, providing advice and research to existing responses.
The Centre has been established amidst a rise of youth violence in the Capital. The Office of National Statistics reported a record high of 15,023 knife crime offences in June this year, the highest annual tally ever registered in London.
Headed by Dr Simon Harding, Professor of Criminology at UWL, the Centre will expand Harding’s interactive and collaborative research into UK street gangs.
In 2005-08 Dr Harding organised the Lambeth Gangs Commission and managed The Phoenix Project, London’s largest anti-gangs project. He was also involved in the London Five Borough Alliance Gangs project.
Most recently, Dr Harding has focused his work on the changing nature of urban street gangs in the UK. Age ranges of those involved with street gangs now extends from 10 to 25+ years old; a concerning indication that more young people than ever are at risk of becoming caught up in gang-affiliated lifestyles.
Speaking on 30th October at the NCRG launch night, Harding emphasised the multitude of challenges associated with what he described as a “21st Century problem bridled by 20th century structures, 20th century practices, 20th century organisations”.
“These are culturally siloed, operationally slow, unresponsive, unmodernised, unadjusted, out of date, technologically ill-equipped, inefficient, and unsuitable. We need a radical new way of working to address this. There is no single solution, but many different solutions which must work together in concert.” Harding explained.
NCGR’s collaborative approach will emphasise the importance of hearing frontline voices. The research will closely involve listening to the live experience of those who help to tackle gang violence issues on a daily basis.
Similarly, the research centre is looking to invite to the table multiple parties concerned with the increasing prevalence of violence. The priority to further understanding and to build practical solutions that address the root causes of this complex and systemic issue.
By May Woods
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