Policy on gang violence

A University of Glasgow research team in Urban Studies has been instrumental in changing our understanding of the origins and motivations of youth gangs. 

A team led by Keith Kintrea and Jon Bannister carried out research in Bradford, Bristol, Glasgow, Peterborough, Sunderland and Tower Hamlets.  This led to a key previously unrecognised insight that territoriality among young people is found across the UK, and is a significant source of disadvantage even as it helps shape young people’s identities and provides them with the support of a friendship group. Further research in Scotland revealed that territorial rivalry and ‘gang fighting’ are prevalent in the west of Scotland, while youth gangs in the east typically engage in low-level antisocial behaviour and opportunistic fighting. This territoriality not only cuts off disadvantaged young people from opportunities but also involves them in rivalry with groups from other areas which often escalates to violence and criminality. A key insight was that significant gang behaviour had its origins in extreme forms of place attachment.

On publication the research was reported by over 300 media outlets, including a two-page Guardian feature. The researchers also delivered two seminars at the Home Office during the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee Inquiry into Knife Crime (2008-09). The research was also quoted in the politically influential Centre for Social Justice report ‘Dying to Belong’ (2009).

The impact of the Glasgow findings encompassed changes in policy direction and programmes aimed at tackling youth violence, including policies in Scotland such as ‘No Knives Better Lives’ and there is now clear recognition of the central role of territoriality in gangs, with the most recent policy document Ending Gang Violence: A Cross Government Report describing case studies in exactly the same terms as Kintrea et al (2008). The introduction of gang injunctions in England in 2011 is a direct response to the need to tackle territorial violence.

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