Although it is clear that the violent extremist and gangs differ vastly in their overall goals there are definitive similarities that can be drawn between the two groups.
There are many similarities that can be drawn between violent extremist groups and criminal gangs. There are many obvious parallels. Both groups involve illegal activities, especially violence and both are dominated mostly by young men.
There have been more than 50 suspected murders in the capital this year, raising a number of questions about the causes of violent crime in London. There is fraught debate about how best to tackle the causes of violent crime and the government’s role in protecting our young people.
At JAN Trust we find it hard not to draw similarities between violent extremism and violent gang related crime, for a number of reasons. However this is most evident in the recruitment process of both extremist groups and gangs. As with extremism there are a huge variety of reasons that a young person may be drawn into a gang. However, between the two there exists one prevailing theme, the recruitment of disaffected youths, and both promising a sense of belonging.
Although these groups may appear to have widely divergent goals, there are inherent similarities between them. Robert Orell a former member of a white supremacist movement in Sweden in the 1990s said “Yes, there are differences in ideology, but if you look at how these groups are organised, and who and how they recruit – actually, they are very similar.”
There are a magnitude of reasons for an individual to become disenfranchised and lacking a sense of individual and collective identity, that leads them seeking personal significance and a sense of belonging. Such reasoning can include factors such as: socioeconomic opportunity or lack thereof, societal marginalisation, and institutionalised oppression, leaving individuals with feelings of powerlessness and vulnerability. These circumstances leave individuals vulnerable to those who are willing to exploit feelings of powerlessness and marginalisation, creating the possibility of an attachment to an extremist organisation or gangs. These groups and organisations are able to provide those lacking a sense of identity, a sense of collective belonging and a purpose.
With growing austerity seen across the country it is no wonder more and more young people are turning to alternatives outside of the mainstream, between 2010 and 2016 youth services were cut by £387m.
It is important remember these often young men are only acting as foot solider for gangster and violent extremism groups, there is deep network of violent groups and individuals that prey on these vulnerable young men. On both sides they are making a calculated decision of who they pick on to recruit.
JAN Trust the highly acclaimed Web Guardians™ programmes that works at a grassroots level in local communities to support parents, mothers and foster carers to prevent and tackle online extremism. In addition to this in 2010 JAN Trust ran a similar model with same client base to prevent and tackle gun, knife and gang crime in Haringey, where four people have lost their lives since January. It is these kinds of programmes that are able to help support parents to have a real impact on the lives of their children. Current austerity measures mean that many organisations like JAN Trust are unable to do this vital work, to truly tackle these issues of extremism and gang violence the government must resources this vital work.
We must present and alternative to help young people with identity issues, or feeling alienated to realise that joining such groups does not provide them with the answers they look for. Addressing our fraying humanity in order to protect our young people and future generations, from the danger of recruiters, extremism and gang violence is a pressing agenda. We must address disparities that exist across society and foster a politics that provides equality for all; we can no longer ignore the fraught class divides that exist in our society that result in deaths of innocent lives.