Boris Johnson: 'Youth illiteracy must be tackled to stem London's gang culture'


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The Independent Online

The "basic problems" of youth illiteracy must be tackled in order to help stem the capital's gang culture, the Mayor of London has said.

Boris Johnson stressed education and employment opportunities for young people must remain central to any drive to cut gang-associated crime.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Mr Johnson said it was vital that stop and search was done "sensitively and in accordance with the law".

He said: "What you really need to do is to tackle the basic problems of these kids, and many of them frankly are illiterate at the age of eleven and that is why we are leading a big drive now on illiteracy in London.

"London's education has improved greatly as it happens over the last ten, 15 years, but there's a long way to go and for these kids, what they need is a proper education and the opportunity of a job."

Mr Johnson insisted the levels of crime and murder in the capital were coming down, but there was a need to have a "series of interventions" at all levels and a strong policing response.

He said: "In case people think that gang culture and crime is exploding in London, it's not actually. Teenage homicides have come down very sharply, there have been three this year, that's three too many, but there were considerably more in previous years; there's also been significant falls in youth violence."

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe, he said, had been spearheading a "concerted anti-gang strategy", with approximately 1,100 officers dedicated to it, and there had been 453 gang members arrested since April.

He said: "What crime there is, is very substantially associated with gangs and with gang membership and I think it is right that police take a very tough line."