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Over the past ten years, violence among young people involved in gangs has claimed hundreds of lives and dominated national debate in the UK. There have been many well-documented attempts to counter gang culture, ranging from early years intervention to zero tolerance policing.
But authorities have yet to fully consider social mixing—otherwise known as "bridging". Bridging is an approach which helps people go out beyond the neighbourhood where they live to create new, more diverse social networks in other areas. This might happen when they start training or volunteering, or get a part-time job.
Kinds - Activities - Opportunity - Friendships - Area
These kinds of activities offer an opportunity to form new friendships outside of their local area. In academic terms, it gives people a chance to develop social capital – that is, accrue the opportunities and benefits that come from having a wide and varied social network. And there's new evidence to show that this can have a positive impact on young people.
My earlier research into what drives young people to join gangs involved interviewing a mix of 44 young people aged 18 to 25, half of whom were gang members, and half of whom said they were not gang members, based in Merseyside, UK. One of the key differences between these two groups of young people was whether or not they found opportunities for social mixing.
Gang - Members - Area - Cases - Gangs
Those who identified themselves as gang members had restricted themselves to their local area, where in many cases there were active gangs. With limited opportunities available, the only places for young people to develop friendships were in school, and on the streets after school.
As a result, they had little choice but to get involved in the main activity around the streets, which was to join groups of young people hanging around shops and parks. Over time, the values and beliefs of these young...
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