Gang culture on the rise in Romford

Picture posed by a model (PA)

Picture posed by a model (PA) - Credit: PA Wire/Press Association Images

Gang culture is on the rise in Havering, with the borough’s young people being targeted by groups from Dagenham.

The revelation made by Joy Hollister, council group director for children, adults and housing, comes just one week after figures revealed child sexual exploitation is also increasing in the borough.

Mrs Hollister said the council and police were aware of gangs from Dagenham who “hang around” Romford to recruit members.

Speaking to the Recorder about cuts to youth services, she explained funding for “the most vulnerable young people in the borough” would remain intact.

“Compared to other boroughs it [gang culture] is not a massive issue,” she stressed. “But Havering is becoming a bit more London - there is a change in demographic.”

She also highlighted social media as a tool used by gangs to target young people.

“It makes children so much more vulnerable,” she said. “A child struggling at school, somebody with a difficult home life - they find it easier to recruit these people.”

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The Mayor’s Office for Policing And Crime (MOPAC) gives grant funding to all borough’s specifically to target gangs, and Mrs Hollister revealed Havering could “do with a bit more”.

Turning her attention to the rise in child sexual exploitation, reported last week, Mrs Hollister said the cross-agency teams involving police, schools and health staff, are working hard to recognise early signs.

Havering Council apologised last week after it published incorrect figures exaggerating the risk of sexual exploitation in response to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, which were reported in the national media.

Accurate figures show between April 2013 and July 2014, 25 suspected cases were identified, and since then, a further 17.

“It is a grooming issue,” said Mrs Hollister. “Many young people believe these older people are their boyfriends, that they love them. It is a difficult thing to tackle because it’s about getting young people themselves to recognise it isn’t normal.”

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