New restrictions on suspected gang members launched

Police and local councils today gained the power to restrict the movements of people accused of being members of gangs.

Gang injunctions, which are similar to anti-social behaviour orders (asbos) and were drawn up by the last Labour government, are drawn up according to the specific concerns about individuals.

They were first developed in the US in the 1980s, with the city of Los Angeles sometimes serving hundreds of gang members with restrictions at once. They were also introduced in San Francisco in 2006, with people who violate the civil orders facing fines or up to six months in jail, but they have proved controversial. Two weeks ago in nearby Oakland, a public safety committee asked the police to review the legislation following ongoing concerns that they have failed to improve public safety and have encouraged police oppression.

The new measures in England and Wales enable the authorities to ban people from specific neighbourhoods known for violence between rival groups, but can also stop people from wearing certain colours known to identify them with a gang or walking aggressive dogs. They can also compel people to attend mentoring schemes which would teach them how to protect themselves from gang culture.

The injunctions can be applied in county courts against adults whom the police and local councils believe are involved in gang-related crime and violence, though ministers say they will not replace other convictions for such offences. Further measures covering gang activity amongst youths aged between 14 and 17 are to be trialled later this year.

Home Office minister James Brokenshire said: "These new powers will help police and local authorities tackle local gang problems by placing tough conditions on the behaviour of individuals involved in gang-related violence and providing strong support to those who want to leave violent gangs."