In the weeks following last summer's looting and rioting, Prime Minister David Cameron called for an "all-out war on gangs and disorder".
The police responded by arresting more than 200 gang leaders in February.
Now the think tank Centre for Social Justice has said that might have made the issue even worse.
Dave Thompson, deputy chief constable for West Midlands Police, told the Today programme that enforcement alone will not solve the problem of gang culture.
He said: "What we've got to do is make sure we know which young people are at risk of getting involved, that we're intervening effectively to divert them from wanting to get involved in gangs and putting support around their families."
Junior Smart, a former gang member who is now the team leader for the SoS Gangs project at St Giles Trust, said: "None of the work that we do is an overnight fix.
"There's been a general thought that they can invest money in this for one or two years and the issue will be resolved. In fact, for many of these people with complex needs, the work needs to be ongoing."
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