Nearly 100 young people are believed to be at risk of gang exploitation in Southwark, but there is no reliable data on how many of them are women and girls, according to a report from Florence Eshalomi.
Gang Associated Girls was published this month by the Southwark and Lambeth assembly member and Vauxhall MP.
It has identified approximately a thousand young women and girls across London who are not recorded in official statistics but are at risk of gang grooming and exploitation, or already involved in gang activity.
“I’ve heard of some atrocious acts, including women being threatened with their life and women being sexually assaulted as part of acts of revenge from rival gangs, and I’m appalled,” Eshalomi said.
“With the risk growing as women are expected to take on bigger roles in gang operations, it’s clear we need to massively upscale our work to help those women who are at risk, or are victims, of gang crime.”
According to City Hall data, between January and September 2019 the Met identified just one female perpetrator who committed a crime as part of a gang, as well as 92 female victims of crimes committed by gangs for the whole of London.
In nine of London’s 32 boroughs, no female victims or perpetrators of gang crime were identified at all.
Meanwhile, the Met’s gangs matrix, which seeks to identify and risk-assess gang members and those at risk of victimisation, only lists six girls – less than one per cent of the total on its books.
After lodging freedom of information requests to authorities across London, Eshalomi found that gang association had been listed as a factor in the cases of 1,049 women and children supported by children’s services in the last year, pointing to a hugely underreported level of female abuse and exploitation.
While Southwark Council says its children’s services’ department lists gang association in 96 young people’s cases from 2018-2019, it was unable to say how many of them were male and how many were female.
Camberwell-based charities, St Giles Trust and Redthread also provided evidence for the report, and called on more intervention services to be targeted at women.
“Programmes for boys that are slightly amended to work for girls will not produce good results; girls suffer different trauma, there are different ways of engaging them,” a St Giles Trust spokesperson said.
Eshalomi is now calling on more prevention work aimed at teaching young girls about healthy relationships, specialist training for police and other agencies to identify and help those at risk, and more gender-specific services.