|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Press Conference on Launch of 2010 Small Arms Survey
Street gangs showed surprising resilience to common law enforcement tactics, such as police sweeps, curfews, and longer prison sentences, according to a new report out today, which also notes that, while such tactics were designed to disrupt gang structures, eliminate leadership and deter youths, in many cases, they failed in their short-term objectives or even increased insecurity.
Those were just a few of the insights found in the tenth annual Small Arms Survey 2010: Gangs, Groups, and Guns, which was launched today at Headquarters in New York during a press conference organized by the Permanent Mission of Switzerland to the United Nations. The 343-page report was put together by the Geneva-based Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies.
“Our mandate is to look at all aspects of small arms and armed violence. We seek to provide research and analysis to support Governments to reduce the incidence of armed violence and illicit trafficking through our evidence-based analysis,” said Eric Berman, Managing Director of the Survey, who added that the insight provided by the Survey also had an important purpose from a policy standpoint.
Drawing on many examples from many contexts, the 2010 Survey reviews current knowledge on gang-related violence and efforts to curb it. Measures that combine suppression — or its threat — with community outreach, social services and treatment and prevention strategies are more effective than suppression alone. The report adds that there is hope in recognizing the reasons youths join gangs, such as social cohesion, mutual respect and artistic expression. The key is to prevent them from joining, and offering education, conflict resolution and life training. Job training, tattoo removal and counselling are also positive measures, the Survey adds.
Apart from its focus on street gangs, the 2010 edition also explores non-State armed groups. Unlike gangs, armed groups may seek to advance an ideology, seize power or take security into their own hands. They include rebels, insurgents, vigilante groups, and paramilitaries that support the State. Both gangs and armed groups are willing to use violence to achieve their objectives. On gender issues, girls and women are committed supporters and members of gangs around the world, but, contrary to some media accounts, they engage in less frequent and severe violence than boys and men, and rarely use firearms.
Mr. Berman, who moderated the event, was joined by Jurg Lauber, Permanent Representative of Switzerland to the Conference on Disarmament, and Jennifer Hazen, Senior Researcher at the Small Arms Survey.
Gang suppression may temporarily lower violence, but it could also lead to unintended consequences, said Ms. Hazen, who added that: “The incarceration of gang leaders can help gangs consolidate and propagate within prisons, and project power into the community. Prison gangs also rely on re-incarceration to make their threats over their non-imprisoned members credible.”
Yet, Mr. Berman said, suppression tactics failed to tackle the reasons that led youths to become gang members in the first place, effectively guaranteeing that gangs would adapt to heavy-handed policing. Since gangs served cultural, social and economic needs, they survived many gang-eradication efforts. “Given this, addressing the underlying motivations for youths to join gangs appears to be an important component in gang violence prevention planning,” he said.
Incarceration may be good for public security, but there are long-term negative impacts, said Ms. Hazen. In prison, gangs formed, expanded, consolidated, controlled, and propagated. They projected power between prison walls and created links from prison out to the streets.
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