Home Office minister hails Brent for work on tackling gang crime

Minister for preventing abuse and exploitation, Karen Bradley. Picture: PA

Minister for preventing abuse and exploitation, Karen Bradley. Picture: PA - Credit: PA WIRE

Brent has been hailed as a model of best practice for its work in tackling gang-related crime by the Home Office.

Karen Bradley MP, minister for preventing abuse and exploitation, praised the strong partnership between Brent Council, the police, and voluntary and community agencies, during a visit to Wembley Stadium in Engineers Way yesterday.

She met with staff from Air Sports Network, a voluntary organisation which runs sports and mentoring sessions for former offenders and those at risk of becoming criminals in Brent and across the south of England.

Citing Brent as an example of best practice, Ms Bradley said: “Gang violence and exploitation can devastate communities, leaving vulnerable young people trapped in a cycle from which it is difficult to escape.

“I was really impressed by the work of AIR Sports Network, which is providing a real alternative to being in a gang through rehabilitating offenders back into their communities with mentoring, training and sport. It is through government, councils and charities working together with organisations, such as AIR Sports Network, that we can end this form of violence and exploitation.”

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Brent has been part of the government’s Ending Gang and Youth Violence programme since 2012 along with 42 other local authorities.

The Home Office praise comes as the government launches its Ending Gang Violence and Exploitation policy. It aims to reduce violence and knife crime, create opportunities for youngsters, safeguard gang-associated girls and women, among other goals.

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But one community chief has warned that the borough’s good work on tackling gang crime could soon “go down the pan” when £1million of council cuts to youth services come into effect from April 1. It could see the closure of up to three youth centres if outside organisations don’t step in to save them, including Wembley Youth Centre in London Road.

Keith Harwood, chief executive of Wembley Crime Prevention, a charity to protect youngsters from violence, said: “As a main partner working with Brent Council and the police, we work extremely hard to divert youth from gangs.

“But all these efforts will go down the pan come April 1 when the centre may close. The good work being done will be jeopardised because young people won’t have the projects to go to keep them out of harm’s way.”

Cllr Ruth Moher, cabinet member for children’s services, said the youth service funding axe was a result of central government cuts. She said: “The changes we’re having to make to our youth services will help to secure important youth projects in the borough and promote more innovative ways of working with our voluntary and community sector partners.”

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