Information about the Mali boys.
London gangs driven by desire to profit from drug trade, study finds
Focus has shifted from turf wars to business-led ethos, says Waltham Forest report
Ian Cobain and Vikram Dodd
Wed 6 Jun 2018 09.15 EDT First published on Tue 5 Jun 2018 19.01 EDT
This article is over 1 month old
London’s gangs appear to be driven increasingly by a desire to profit from the illegal drugs market rather than a determination to protect their neighbourhoods from outsiders, a study has found.
The report on gang culture in Waltham Forest, in the north-east of the capital, also suggests visible signs of gang membership are being rejected on the grounds that they are bad for business.
Rise in proportion of BAME suspects on Met’s gangs matrix
The report, From Postcodes to Profit, was prepared by researchers at London South Bank University at the request of Waltham Forest council.
“The first major development is the emergence of a more organised and ruthless operating model focused on the drugs market and driven by a desire for profits,” its authors say.
“This new operating model rejects visible signs of gang membership as ‘bad for business’ because they attract unwanted attention from law enforcement agencies.
“This more business-oriented ethos has changed the meaning of territory. Instead of an emotional sense of belonging to a postcode that needs to be defended, territory is valued as a marketplace to be protected.”
A second key development was the increasing involvement of girls and women in gang activity, particularly in the transport of drugs and carrying weapons, with the smaller numbers of female police officers meaning they are less likely to be searched.
While some gangs are increasingly using social media to promote their “brand” others avoid it because it attracts unwanted police attention.
The year-long study focused on a Waltham Forest gang that calls itself the Mali Boys. A 40-strong grouping, its older membersare drawn from the Somali community, while younger members include boys and girls from other backgrounds.
“The Mali Boys are heavily involved in drug supply and have a street reputation as a violent and feared group across the borough,” the report says. “They lead the new economically driven operating model and are less interested in postcode rivalries, unless it is to protect their drug market.”
Younger members have been recruited as drug runners, sometimes operating outside London in enterprises known as county lines, and some aged 12-17 are said to be increasingly involved in crime – both as victims and perpetrators – including serious violence and child sexual exploitation.
“The leadership is male and seeks anonymity with little ostentation,” the report says. “It remains unclear what happens to the profits of drug supply.”
Andrew Whittaker, the lead author and a professor of social work at the university, said: “It’s possible that the situation we’re seeing with gangs in Waltham Forest trading along county lines is indicative of a wider pan-London trend of increasing sophistication and entrepreneurialism in the way that gangs operate now.
“Our report shows there is definitely scope for further research to look more deeply into the issue of child slavery and sexual exploitation of young girls by gangs in future, to see whether these activities could be prosecuted under the Modern Slavery Act.”
Lordship Lane: the London road paying a heavy toll for gang warfare
The report found that gangs were grooming children as young as 10, sometimes persuading them to commit a petty crime such as shoplifting as a means of normalising criminal behaviour.
Clare Coghill, leader of Waltham Forest council, said poverty left young people vulnerable to being drawn into gang activity. “These kids are not doing this to get cars and trainers, they are doing this to get weed and a box of chicken. They are doing this to eat and have a sense of social belonging.”