Gang members are using children to do drug deals, according to the Hackney Integrated Gangs Unit (HIGU).
Maurice Mason, Hackney Council’s Community Safety Manager and HIGU member, revealed the information during a presentation to the Dalston Ward forum earlier this week.
He said that gangs view children as “expendable” because they “will receive a lower punishment if caught”.
“many of our gangs are now opening markets in other areas”
Mason also attributed some of the recent violence in Hackney to gang “elders not being able to control youngsters”.
There has been an increase in gang-related youth offences, with a 20 per cent increase in child gun crime between 2013 and 2016, and arrests of children as young as 10.
The meeting also discussed how authorities in Hackney are currently targeting 18 urban street gangs, with 150 dangerous gang-related individuals being the focus of the multi-agency task force so far, including around 15 below the age of 18.
Mason noted that the “proliferation of young people carrying knives” is the aspect of Hackney policing which concerns him most.
The unit is made up of the police, council workers, probation officers and voluntary organisations.
“gangs view children as expendable because they will receive a lower punishment”
The meeting went on to discuss the structure and activities of Hackney gangs.
Mason explained that they are fiercely tribal, to the extent that “if a male gang member from London Fields moved to another area he’d be lucky to get away with his life”.
However whilst gang members are extremely violent towards their rivals they “will not predominantly attack a member of the public”, with Mason comparing them to football hooligan firms who seek out rival hooligans and ignore normal fans.
He also said that there has recently been “increased tension between some of the gangs in the N16 [Stoke Newington] area” with about eight involved in disputes.
Recently some Hackney gangs have been expanding their operations outside of Hackney, and even London, with “many of our gangs now opening markets in other areas”.