What works – tackling out-of-limits destruction and violence

by Julia Evans on August 14, 2011

Karyn McCluskey, director of Scotland’s Violence Reduction Unit which has radically curbed gang-related crime across Scotland, considers approaches to the aftermath both on Radio 4 Today programme – Monday 15th August [i] and in Sunday Mail – Sunday August 14th 2011[ii]

Quotes:  “I am not saying we have all the answers but what we have done with gangs does work. It is all about giving them alternatives to a life of violence. For many young people involved in crime, the gang is their only family.”

“In Glasgow, the new unit stopped gang fights and street disturbances by inviting 368 gang members to meetings and mock courts. They were told if they stopped fighting, the police would help them with training, housing, education and community groups. If they carried on their life of crime, they would go to jail.”

She has already advised the Met on the techniques credited with producing a 50 per cent drop in violent crime and a 73 per cent reduction in reoffending.

David O’Connor, president of the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents, said: “The English forces have the necessary expertise on their own doorsteps, here in Scotland. The lack of rioting is a vindication of the robust policing methods used in Scotland. Crime is also at a 33-year low in Scotland.”

Former Scotland Yard Commander John O’Connor … said: “The Americans didn’t cure the social problems in New York. What they did is they locked people up. That’s how zero tolerance works. We haven’t got the heart for that over here.”

So what works is giving human beings an alternative to a life of violence.

How is this done? By inviting human beings who are members of gangs to meet Others in the form of victims, the police, former gang members, and so on. A relationship between the gang members and those outside the limits of their gang is put in place. So the gang member becomes networked into the community, rather than isolated in their own ‘safe’ world of certainty.

If a human being lives within a self-contained, safe, system, then anyone outside the system is not safe and is demonised. (See Richard Klein’s post) This is how a group isolated to their own centrally-controlled standards, as is the Government in the fields of Social Care/work, Education, care for Mental Illhealth or Dis-being, behaves.  Believing you are in total control, is an aphrodisiac as can be seen from politician’s posturing on how they can control parents who murder and abuse their children, and so on.

So the technique is to cut the protective layer of culture, and put in place difference.  Of course, so far, the government has refused to give up the Sadeian position of control – they get too much pleasure from it – as is theorised by Lacan in ‘Kant with Sade’.  In this self-contained system, difference is foreclosed and the knitting of relationships, goes missing.  Change of position also involves acknowledging that it is not possible to control and failure is probable, rather than an excuse for ejecting or scapegoating.


[i] Radio 4 Today programme – Monday 15thAugust http://news.bbc.co.uk/today/hi/today/newsid_9564000/9564739.stm

0714 Home affairs correspondent Mark Easton explores the pros and cons of a zero tolerance approach to street violence. And Karyn McCluskey, director of Scotland’s Violence Reduction Unit, considers the consequences.

[ii] Riots: David Cameron’s tough American supercop looks to Scotland’s gangbusters for help Aug 14 2011 Exclusive by Norman Silvester, Sunday Mail