A new project is being set up today to tackle gang culture in Gloucester
A new initiative led by police is set to revolutionise the approach to gangs in Gloucester.
The aim is to reduce the number of youngsters involved in gangs by offering support to those who are or may be venerable.
The multi-agency project is being led by representatives, from Gloucestershire Constabulary, Gloucestershire City Council and Gloucestershire County Council's Youth Support Team.
It follows in the footsteps of a crackdown by police on gang related violence in the city called Operation Avenger, which led to over 50 arrests, two people receiving gang injunctions banning them from entering the city and one man being jailed twice for gang related activity.
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Enforcement and concerted efforts to increase reporting of gang related crime and activities now mean officers have a better understanding of the current situation.
Gloucester Superintendent Emma Ackland said: "The Avenger Task Force will support youngsters and adults who come to its attention and divert them away from gang membership and criminal activity.
"An option that has already proved to be a success is a project called 'Great Expectations' which involves reformed prisoners mentoring the youngsters and a programme of activity that seeks to ensure that participants understand the risks and consequences of being involved in crime, together with a very sombre warning about what might happen if they carry on along the same path.
"One of the crucial elements in the programme is support from the prisoners - it is essential to give young people an opportunity to talk to someone who understands their situation."
Avenger Task Force coordinator Inspector Neil Smith said: "We're talking about a small number of groups in the city who have a degree of organisation, consider themselves a gang and are engaged to some level in criminal activity, often causing fear and violence.
"There aren't a huge number of people involved but the effects of their actions cause ripples across the entire community.
"This task force is about getting right to the root of the problem - ideally intervening when the warning signs are there for a youngster but perhaps they're not in a gang yet.
"Schools and all the agencies involved will meet regularly and share information on an unprecedented level.
"It is vital we tackle this area head-on and with all our partners on board. Society as a whole must stand up and let youngsters in the city know that this isn't a cool way of life or one that leads to respect or riches."
Deputy Chief Constable Kevin Lambert said: "This is a dynamic project that aims to get to the very heart of the issue.
"The officers involved are dedicated to helping the young people and adults on the brink of this lifestyle, get back on track and build a successful future for themselves.
"I'm proud of the way this initiative has taken shape and of all the officers, staff and agencies involved, who've worked together to make it a real success."