Cumberland Lodge published its latest cross-sector report today, on Understanding and Policing Gangs, following an evening launch event at New Scotland Yard, London.

The 69-page report, available to read or download here, explores best practice in early intervention and prevention strategies, to help improve understanding and inform policing responses to gang-related crime, with a focus on gang-related drug dealing.

It takes a multi-agency perspective, drawing on the collective wisdom and experience of police officers at all levels, as well as academics and researchers, non-governmental organisations, media representatives, policymakers, and community practitioners.

Dr Jan-Jonathan Bock, Cumberland Lodge Programme Director, said, 'This report marks the culmination of 12 months of work, guided by our steering committee and supported by independent, interdisciplinary research. To help inform the cross-sector discussions we convened at Cumberland Lodge in June 2019, we commissioned an initial review of resource on the attractions of gang culture for young people, recent developments in the nature of gang activity, and approaches to early intervention and gang desistance. This is presented in Part I of our report. 

‘Our roundtable conference was where the key themes and recommendations presented in Part II of the report emerged. These ideas were reviewed and refined at an expert consultation we hosted in October 2019, involving conference representatives and further specialists in the field, before being presented today in Part II of our report.’

The report was researched and written by Dr Robert McLean, a lecturer in criminal justice and policing at the University of the West of Scotland. Robert was commissioned to support us as a freelance Research Associate, and was involved in the conference and consultation discussions, and in tonight’s report launch. He also prepared our pre-conference briefing document.

'Thoughtful and challenging'

Olivia Pinkney QPM, Chief Constable of Hampshire Constabulary, and chair of our Police Conference Steering Committee, said: 'This report is a thoughtful and challenging reflection on gangs in the UK, helping us to understand why they have the reach they do, and informing law enforcement approaches to reducing the harm they cause.'

Mark Burns-Williamson OBE, Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for West Yorkshire and the national Association and Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC) Serious Violence lead, spoke at our June 2019 conference. He said: 'Gangs have direct links to knife and violent crime, which is unfortunately something we have seen significant rises in. However, these rises do not go unanswered and a plethora of work is ongoing to tackle and reduce these issues - including this conference - which was attended by many key individuals and organisations.

'A crucial theme of the conference, which connects to all our aims in helping to reduce serious violence, is the importance of partnership working and the sharing of best practice. Partnership working across a range of sectors is central to many of initiatives in this arena, including the 18 Violence Reduction Units that have been created across England and Wales. It is also something that I have long championed, in calling for, and working towards, a whole-system public health approach, along with appropriate law enforcement and disruption. 

'A whole-system approach, involving sustained early intervention and prevention work with our young people, schools, key partners and communities, is the only effective way to better understand and stop prevent such harm from happening in the first place.' 

Cumberland Lodge Chief Executive, Edmund Newell, said: 'Understanding and Policing Gangs is one of four key issues we addressed in our ‘Identities & Belonging’ series. We look forward to seeing how this report informs and inspires positive interventions, in the police force and wider society, to help tackle social divisions in the years to come.'

Cross-sector recommendations

Understanding and Policing Gangs highlights cross-sector recommendations for tackling gang culture and drug dealing, and approaches to policing gangs, more broadly.

The recommendations, which are each expanded on in Part II of the report, are:

  1. Re-evaluate UK drug policy
  2. Monitor online activity more effectively
  3. Move away from permanent school expulsion
  4. Rethink criminal records
  5. Engage with marginalised communities by improving cultural competency and providing positive role models
  6. Consider the role of female gang members, associates, and their affiliations
  7. Encourage holistic wellbeing and spiritual desistance
  8. Adopt the 'public health model' of intervention
  9. Improve multi-agency partnerships and services
  10. Review funding allocations and mechanisms
  11. Prioritise the clarification of roles and responsibilities
  12. Recognise the importance of mental health and the impact of trauma
  13. Use 'smart targeting' and chase the proceeds of crime.

A list of contributors to the discussions that led to these recommendations can be found on pages 60-63 of the report. An Executive Summary is also provided at the beginning of the report (pages 1-4), summarising all the key points.

Get your copy

Copies of the report can be read on-screen or downloaded in pdf format on our Read, Watch, Listen webpages. We will also be publishing it on our profile.

To request a hard copy of the report, please email us at

Constructive dialogue

Cumberland Lodge has been creating a safe space for constructive dialogue on the most pressing policing and criminal justice matters, since 1981. Our renowned annual Police Conference brings together a multi-agency delegation of senior police officers, NGO leaders, lawyers, academics and senior civil servants, once a year, to tackle a key issue at the forefront of the police agenda.

We are grateful to KBR for their valued support of our annual conference.