Girl who knew notorious Camden gang says police action not working

Weapon sweeps, drug crackdowns and youth summits are going some way to addressing Camden’s gang culture.

But for Emily - who lives on one of Camden’s most notorious estates - police and council initiatives to tackle gangs will never solve the problem.

Youth violence figures have plummeted by a third recently after a Camden police reshuffle made gangs a top priority.

But officers are scratching their heads over the reason for the rapid decline.

Camden’s youth violence Inspector Danny O’Connor said: “I wish I could bottle the how. In the aftermath of the disorder, with the help we got from our colleagues from the counties, that probably helped us and we have managed to sustain those gains.”

But Emily, who lives in Rowley Way and grew up surrounded by members of Camden’s Sin City gang, claimed she could explain the swift fall in violence.

The 20-year-old, who is not identified by her real name for fear of reprisals, said: “I think the best way of looking at the problem is to let them learn – seeing is believing. A few of them have been shot and stabbed and that has kind of calmed them down.

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“I said to them ‘What is it going to take for you lot to calm down?’. And what happened? Someone died.”

She moved to the area in her late teens and said she was seduced by the exciting gang lifestyle.

Along with a group of friends, she used to steal alcohol from shops before she was arrested and forced into a rethink of her antics.

“When I came back I was introduced to this whole new world,” she said. “It’s the adrenaline that gets you. It’s fun, but it’s not fun now.”

Her younger brother is nearing an age where, in one local policeman’s words, “the hoodies go up” and the group takes them in.

She said: “The 13 and 14-year-olds are running around robbing people and I don’t want my little brother getting into that.”

On Monday (October 17) police raided Abbey Road estate, targeting two homes of suspected drug dealers.

Dealers often use younger boys to sell drugs and it is they who are most at risk from associated dangers, such as carrying knives and drugs, police say.

Insp O’Connor said regular police operations aim to “cut the head from the beast” of the gang problem on the estate.

But Emily believes it will take more than raids and patrols to free the area from the problem.

She says it will take first-hand accounts from ex-gang members about the dangers which come with the lifestyle to earn the respect of teenagers on the estate.

“People should be shown what is going to happen to you if you stay in a gang,” she said. “Real life pictures, CCTV and videos could be used and it would open their eyes a bit more. It could help them grow up just that little bit.”