For the last six years, the Scots have waged a war in gang violence in Glasgow. But they haven’t done it with guns or violent tactics; they’ve done it with communication, community outreach, and a more serious approach to engaging the youth that are prone to violence. It wasn’t free either; since 2004, they’ve put another 1,000 cops on the streets and spent approximately $92 million. But they’ve reduced the murder rate from the highest in Europe at 6 per 100,000 down to 3 per 100,000. That’s still fifth highest in Europe. For Glasgow, that means instead of 90 murders a year they’ve come down to about 45.
Can the U.S. learn from Glasgow?
More sobering for the United States is the fact that the murder rate in Glasgow was BELOW our national average of 6.5 per 100,000. Is it possible to achieve the same results as Glasgow? It is hard to see how that’s possible when our country is cutting the police budgets, social outreach programs, and all the things that Glasgow used to reduce their violence among youths. That’s right, we’ve cut every program and there are arguments to cut even further.
Glasgow increased programs for youth, including a large youth center designed to engage youth from age 13 to 25 to not only give them something productive to do with their time, but actually give them skills that would make them a more productive member of society.
Law enforcement officials are targeting intervention all the way down to infants by engaging single mothers and encouraging stronger bonding and more firm discipline in the home. The results so far are encouraging and the tide seems to have turned for Glasgow as the rate of violent deaths drops and the number of gangs involved in meaningful communication with the police has increased.
Unemployment rate in Glasgow is hovering right around 6 percent; among the highest rate in all of the UK. By contrast, the United States unemployment rate continues to sit around 9 percent, with higher rates in major metropolitan areas. That equates directly to an increase in crimes of desperation and more youths disenfranchised by society and lured into gangs. For all intents and purposes, Glasgow is headed in the opposite direction as the United States.
America a breeding ground for crime
Neighboring London had its share of violence recently with the added wrinkle of racial tensions; that’s something Glasgow doesn’t have to deal with. The United States is a mass of racial tension, especially in the major urban areas where the least privileged of Americans live, and the gangs go to recruit.
There are people who want positive change in the inner cities, people who have been in gangs themselves and realize the danger to today’s youth of getting caught up in that kind of life. These advocates echo the thoughts of one of Glasgow’s reformed advocates, William Palmer, that life in a gang is a good way to end your life early. There are so many more productive ways to spend your life. However, as Glasgow’s program grows and is supported by police and money from the government, those same systems of support are crumbling in the United States.
Our youth today are in danger of exploding gang recruiting and leading to an ultra-violent wave against the privileged who can’t seem to fathom what is wrong with our system today. As the corruption up top grows, so too will the corruption and decay blossom in the lower ranks of our society.
To a family out of work for years, coming to the end of unemployment benefits and a middle class growing weary of trying to support their own family members who are tragically, serially unemployed, turning to crime may be the only answer. It’s possible the newest recruits in gangs these days will be the family man forced to turn somewhere to get the money to provide for his family. The hard work we’ve done to weaken and break down the cycle of gang growth and recruitment may be undone soon.