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Last Updated: Friday, 24 August 2007, 08:43 GMT 09:43 UK
'Education key' to tackling gangs
Rhys Jones
Rhys's parents said they had "lost a good guy"
The murder of 11-year-old Rhys Jones has once again thrown the issue of guns, gangs and the young men who join them into sharp focus.

Rhys was walking home from playing football in Croxteth, Liverpool, when a youth, perhaps as a young as 13, rode up on a BMX and opened fire.

The sense of disbelief at the way such a young boy, who had nothing to do with gangs, was killed was summed up by his grieving parents.

"People are saying to me 'wrong time, wrong place'. It shouldn't be a case of wrong time, wrong place," said Stephen Jones, Rhys's father.

"It should not happen in this country."

But it does not take long to find evidence of armed youths in the Croxteth area.

A quick search of YouTube reveals gangs of young men, with their faces covered, showing off their array of weapons for anyone with a passing interest and an internet connection.

Warren Bradley
Warren Bradley wants a zero tolerance approach
The leader of Liverpool City Council, Warren Bradley, believes a tough approach is the answer to tackling them, and wants a summit among city leaders to discuss the problem.

"I regularly meet people who tell me there's got to be a period of zero tolerance across major towns and cities where graffiti is dealt with as a crime," he told BBC Five Live.

"That's the problem. You've got young people who are teetering on the brink of crime undertaking small, low level crimes and not being punished for it and that leads them on to something bigger."

But what is the root of the problem? Why do some young men attach so much value to violence and criminality?

The Reverend Dr David Leslie, of St Cuthbert's Church in Croxteth, near where Rhys was shot, believes modern culture is partly to blame.

He told Radio 4: "I think we are locked into what I would call sort of false values, a kind of commodified culture where people are valued much more for what they have than what they are.

Practical Wizdom
They are not empowered... so you hold a gun - you feel powerful
Practical Wizdom, Youth worker

"I feel also, in terms of education, that right from early days people really don't know how to communicate with one another, which means that as they get older they are much more likely to be aggressive and instead of having fights now we're into knives and guns."

Community leaders agree that education is an important tool in steering young men away from gang violence, and ultimately reducing gun crime.

Youth worker Practical Wizdom is part of the Gunz Down group, which tours schools in cities addressing the issues facing boys aged between 11 and 14.

He told BBC Breakfast that getting to boys early was important to address the "fear and anger" that drives them into gangs.

Family support

"They are not empowered. So you hold a gun - you feel powerful. I think that's as simple as it is, so we need to find ways to empower young people," he said.

"I do personally believe it starts with families. And family breakdown and poverty is one of the main drivers of this. Not necessarily just money, but the fact of not having that support there."

Practical Wizdom also believes that supporting families, and encouraging them to stay together, was an important factor in steering youths away from gangs.

"I think we have got two years to turn this around," he added.

"If we can get into the schools, if we can get to the parents and support them and get the kids to think about their actions before they get in to it, I think we can stem this.

"But we have got to work hard at it. It is a problem, it is present and we need to get on."




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