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Last Updated: Saturday, 17 May, 2003, 00:44 GMT 01:44 UK
Gun crime 'threat' to UK minorities
By Dominic Casciani
BBC News Online community affairs reporter

Guns
Guns: Fashion accessories for some young people
Drugs crime dominated by gun-toting gangs in major cities is the biggest threat to Britain's ethnic minorities since the beginnings of mass immigration, a former adviser to the home secretary has warned.

Lee Jasper, now the London mayor's race chief, said the police and communities could not compete with the resources of drug gangs in the effort to keep disillusioned young black men away from crime.

He said with London's crack economy now worth an estimated 500m, government needed to pour money into community activism if they were going to stand a chance of turning back gun and drug-related crime in the most deprived areas.

April's national gun amnesty saw 40,000 weapons handed in to police.

Lee Jasper
The resources we have to combat this are meagre compared to those of the dealers on the streets
Lee Jasper
But only a tiny minority of the firearms were surrendered in the target areas of Operation Trident, the Metropolitan Police's unit focusing on gun crime blighting black communities.

"We have got real issues with drugs and gun crime," said Mr Jasper, also an adviser to Trident.

"This is the biggest threat to the black community since its arrival here."

Mr Jasper said calculations based on the estimated spend of addicts suggested the crack economy was worth at least 60m in just one area of south London - Brixton.

Most of that money was being made by dealers operating within a tiny radius of one of the busiest roads in the area.

"The resources we have to combat this are meagre compared to those of the dealers on the streets," he said.

"This is a multinational industry, capable of constant change, working in the areas of cities with the most poverty."

Gangs 'look after their own'

Speaking at a conference on street crime and disorder, Mr Jasper said the true victims of urban criminality were those in the poorest areas.

In London's case this was predominantly those from ethnic minorities, as criminals preyed easiest on poor neighbours.

In contrast, drug gangs looked after their own by ensuring members were set up with large sums of cash and a supply of crack on release from jail.

In some cases, young men released from Feltham, London's young offenders institute, had been picked up in limousines as a mark of the respect of their peers, he said.

This clan-like loyalty, coupled with lack of job prospects or low educational achievement, meant there were "too many willing soldiers" to replace those arrested.

Funding gap

Mr Jasper urged the government to return to communities the money seized from jailed dealers.

NATIONAL GUN AMNESTY
John Hesketh of West Midlands Police with amnesty haul
40,000 handed in
Major haul of ammunition
Little response in worst-hit areas

He said this simple move would reverse a historic problem of respected grassroots efforts being under-funded and overlooked.

"The Metropolitan Police confiscated millions of pounds [from dealers] last year which all went to the Treasury.

"London does not get a single penny of this. We need the home secretary to release funding back into the communities that are suffering the most.

"Give the money to the organisations which want to look after their own."

Speaking at the same conference, Reverend Nims Obunge, head of the Haringey Peace Alliance which targets young men involved in drugs-related crime, said the gun amnesty figures had shown how difficult a problem London and other cities now faced with drugs crime.

"The reality is that the guns that are killing people are not being submitted," said the Rev Obunge.

"It's not rocket science to realise that criminals are not going to hand in guns if they think they are going to be forensically tested.

"But we as a community need to much more. We can't keep pointing our fingers at the statutory sector and say you are failing. We are failing ourselves."




SEE ALSO:
Did the gun amnesty work?
30 Apr 03  |  UK


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