Posted: 28.06.20 at 17:07 by The Editor
A RISE in gang-related violence in Thurrock – particularly among young offenders – has been highlighted in a new report to be presented to the borough council next week.
However, the report says that community safety in Grays – particularly in the town’s High Street and Town Park – is much improved.
Thursday’s meeting of the Cleaner, Greener and Safer Overview Scrutiny Committee will consider a report put together by the borough’s Community Safety Partnership Manager, Michelle Cunningham, and Jason Read, Thurrock’s Youth Offending Operations Manager.
The report reflects on the result of injunctions preventing gang members operating in the borough,. Prevailing national trends and the increasing influence of gangs from London on the borough – particularly as they exploit gaps created by successful local enforcement action.
It outlines how Thurrock’s Community Safety Partnership (TCSP) through its partners, in particular, Thurrock Council, Essex Police and Youth Offending Service, are addressing the issues of gang-related violence in the borough.
Councillors will be told the value of illicit drugs and the changing drugs market continues to be the principal driver of serious violence in communities across Essex and that regional councils are looking to Essex Police for a more accurate and clear understanding of local demand and dependency levels.
That information, included in a recent police report, will determine the consequent threats to users, victims of crimes committed to fund dependence, and to those caught up in the associated violence and exploitation.
The report reflects on the impact of the major police and Thurrock Council joint injunction against members of the borough-based C17. It says in the 12 months since the injunction was put in place, anti-social behaviour incidents in the borough have reduced slightly, while violent offences increased slightly.
It says the increase in violence could be due to a number of reasons from a gap in the drugs market that has been created following the successful enforcement against C17 and County Drug lines operating in the Thurrock District.
Because of that it may be that rival urban street gangs from neighbouring areas and County drug lines will look to exploit market opportunities.
The report says: “A robust approach to enforcement was undertaken and still continues following the implementation of the Injunctions which included High visibility and Covert patrols/Operations in the identified restricted zones and surrounding areas.
“The purpose of this was to effectively police the gang injunctions and take action for all identified breaches and criminal prosecutions.
“A factor in the increase in reporting could also be down to an increase in community confidence in the police and local authority following high profile enforcement action and well publicised successes.
“Whilst there has been some tangible action and positive outcomes, work in this area continues. The increase in violence is of concern.
“It is important to note that violent crime in relation to gangs has been targeted and the wider community have not been at risk. Another factor for increased statistics may be as a result of increased community confidence to report, following high profile enforcement action.”
Thurrock Council is given a pat on the back for offering £70,000 funding towards the police’s Operation Raptor team based in Thurrock which consists of a sergeant and four officers. From April 2020 a safeguarding officer was aligned to the team.”
“C17 remains a priority for the Raptor team and they are seeking to extend the injunctions” says the report, which continues: ”The local authority funding of £70k provided to Operation Raptor from 2018 to 20 has been paramount to the success of the enforcement of the gang injunctions and the on-going operations to target urban street gangs and county drug lines operating in the Thurrock area.
“It is important to document the impact the enforcement has had visibly on the community and in particular the Grays High Street area. The High Street and Grays Town Park are clearly in a much better position than it was prior to the injunctions being imposed with the general public, shop keepers and local authority providing positive feedback in the improved quality of life of the community frequenting the area.”
Addressing gang affiliation in Thurrock, Mr Read says: “We continue to see the majority of identified nominals being affiliated with Thurrock based gangs i.e. C17. However, we continue to see gang affiliates linked to London based gangs being relocated to Thurrock and aligning themselves with a Thurrock based gang.
“Consequently gangs like C17 will have members from various London gangs, who would not normally associate with each other in their originating borough. It is believed the purpose of this is to earn money from the existing drug trade and to be associated with the local emerging drill music scene.”
The full report can be read here.
THE gang known as “C17” first came to the attention of Essex Police's Operation Raptor team in May 2017 as they became heavily involved in drug dealing and violence.
The gang, which was headed up by then 18-year-old Roland Douherty aka ‘Valenti’, plagued the town centre, town park and beach areas of Grays as well as Lakeside, dealing drugs in those areas and committing crime and disorder.
C17 were notorious for preying on young children in the community, enticing them into the gang and then exploiting them by getting them to run drugs, carry cash from deals or knives. The younger members used to act as “spotters” or “distracters” to look out for police while others are carrying out deals.
Members of the gang use young girls, including those who have gone missing from home, to hold drugs for them. A number of members of the gang have been arrested for serious sexual offences including victims under the age of 16 and have been investigated for Child Sexual Exploitation offences.
C17 are also known to target vulnerable drug users, using violence and intimidation to take over their homes for use as a drug dealing base (a practice known as ‘cuckooing’).
Violence around C17 is mainly borne out of rivalry with other gangs and drug lines and this resulted, in June 2018, in the murder of Roland’s 15-year-old brother Jordan Douherty, from Chafford Hundred, who was killed in Romford.
The escalation in violence with rival gangs has been played out in numerous so-called ‘drill’ music videos filmed by members of C17 which feature weapons and provocative language and gestures.
Drill is a type of rap music that originated in South Chicago in America. It features dark, violent lyrics and is often used to perpetuate and even escalate gang disputes. You can view one of the videos posted by C17 on YouTube here.
In order to reduce the violence and criminality perpetrated by the gang, reduce their impact on the local community and prevent further exploitation of young gang members, Essex Police and Thurrock Council secured injunctions on nine members of the gang. Under the order they were banned from entering Grays town centre and park, Lakeside, Seabrooke Rise or Grays Beach Riverside Park.
They are also banned from making drill videos, wearing hoodies or face coverings, associating with C17 members on social media and, for some, being in the company of girls aged under 16. The gang members must also give Essex Police all details of their social media profiles.
The order was secured following joint work between Essex Police, Thurrock Borough Council and the community to gather the evidence to put before a court. Further gang and individual injunctions have followed - though there have also been numerous breaches of the injunctions.
The report put before Thurrock Council next week offers the following statistics compiled by its youth offending group:
During 2019/20 the group has managed 66 cases of which 25 were highlighted as Red i.e. high risk. The following outcomes were seen in the year 2019/20 -
21 re-offended which is 32% of the cohort. This is below the national average for re-offending by generic adult and juvenile offenders, which considering the high risk most of these offenders present is positive
62% of re-offending was in relation to offensive weapons and possession with intent to supply
31 nominals underwent gang intervention, knife prevention programmes, intervention from a GRV partner or a third party
5 nominals are recorded as having exited gangs, however it is difficult to evidence this on a long term basis
Restrictions placed on nominals include:
o 13 curfews
o 17 exclusions from specific areas following community and custodial sentences, bail conditions, injunctions or Criminal Behaviour Orders
o 19 non-contact orders in relation to other gang members
o 14 restrictions regards mobile phones and social media
o 1 warning and disruption order issued
15 convictions obtained
3 Criminal Behaviour Orders obtained
11 have transferred out of the area, and
9 gang injunctions have continued to be supervised