The controversial gang matrix, is counterproductive. It leads to continual, heavy-handed policing of young black men and boys labelled as 'gang nominals'. According to a hard-hitting new report published today (Wednesday 19 September) from stop and search campaign group StopWatch.
Being Matrixed, paints a bleak picture of people on the gangs matrix being subjected to relentless stop and search encounters sometimes multiple times a day, which seemingly lack an appropriate legal basis.
StopWatch branded constant searching of ‘gang nominals’ without legitimate grounds, an intrusive form of surveillance that directly impacts on the trust and confidence young people have toward the police.
Rather than preventing criminal offences, stop and search has the potential to increase offending behaviour, as people being repeatedly stopped and searched may lose their temper and consequently be arrested for a public order offence, the report warns.
The report criticizes the concept of ‘the gang’ which it describes as implicitly racialized. Young people interviewed in the report often contested that they were part of a gang and posited that they were being labelled due to living in a specific area and associating with certain people.
Katrina Ffrench, Chief Executive of StopWatch, said:
“To be on the Matrix is to be literally black listed. It means that the young people on it are marked out for harassment and humiliation. It’s a highly racialised stigma that follows someone through every aspect of their life.”
“Not only is the Matrix completely ineffective at combating the crime it claims to want to tackle, our research suggests it makes crime more likely.”
“The young people we work with describe being stopped and searched as a daily occurrence, like putting on clothes - some people report being stopped and searched as many as three times a day. I think it’s hard for most people to imagine that level of invasion of personal space and the mental strain the young people experience.”
“Following hot on the heels of an extremely critical report from Amnesty International, our report adds to the weight of evidence which suggests the Matrix is not fit for purpose and should be urgently reviewed by the Mayor of London with a view to scrapping it.”
The frequency with which young people reported being searched was alarming and was directly cited as a cause for increasing criminal offending by a number of the people interviewed. One individual, known as Ricky, told researchers:
“I’ve been stopped and searched, probably, I don’t know, a couple of hundred times, probably, I don’t know. Used to get it regular, I’ve got a conviction because I was stopped and searched three times in one day. Now if you’re stopped and searched three times in one day, how are you going to feel? I flipped, I got done for public disorder and I was thinking, I haven’t actually done nothing, you have stopped me three times in one day.”
The report raises concerns about how the being labelled as ‘gang nominal’ adversely impacts on other areas of young people’s lives. The multi-agency approach, means information is shared with a range public services including education and housing providers. It is not transparent, and results in information being widely shared without the consent of the person at the center of the intervention.
The report calls for the conflating of social welfare services with the criminal justice system to be addressed. The report calls for the Metropolitan police to officially inform all the people that are on the London Matrix of their ‘gang nominal’ status, as well as issuing clear guidance on how people can be removed from it and how they can access and amend any inaccurate personal data that is held.
The report also raises specific concerns about how the rights of children are being breached. The stop and search encounters experienced by young people spoken to by researchers indicate a deficit in knowledge and understanding by police officers about their statutory obligations to children in their care. This disturbing lack of awareness about the importance of ensuring and safeguarding the welfare of children adversely impacts on an officer’s ability to positively and effectively engage with children, the report warns.
Please click on the link to the pdf (below) to download the report.
Details of the launch event and tickets can be obtained here.