The Mayor has published a review of the confidential Gangs Matrix, which was created after the 2011 riots to help identify youths at risk of becoming involved in gangs. Of the 3 200 names listed on the database, three quarters are under the age of 25 and four-in-five are black.
While there is evidence the list has helped to reduce crime, the Mayor has argued instead that strict measures are now allegedly required to “restore trust” and ensure that the database is being used “lawfully and proportionately”.
The Mayor’s review complained that the representation of young black men on the matrix was “disproportionate” to their likelihood of being involved in gang violence and “communities” have “deep reservations” about it.
The review noted: “Further investigation is to be carried out to understand if this disproportionality is legitimate and to be transparent.”
The UK’s data watchdog had previously accused the Metropolitan police of “serious breaches” in data protection laws. Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham complained that details about individuals suspected of gang involvement were “inappropriately” shared.
Their names were given to housing and education authorities, and this has resulted in “alienating communities”. Denham argued that the failure to consider the matrix’s “potentially discriminatory impact” risked “undermining efforts to fight violent crime”.
There are some 200 gangs operating in London and they pose a huge challenge.
“My investigation revealed serious breaches of data protection laws with the potential to cause damage and distress to the disproportionate number of young, black men on the matrix,” Denham added.
The London Evening Standard revealed that 88 per cent of those on the matrix – described as “gang nominals” are from a black and ethnic minority background. Denham said because so many on the matrix gang nominals are black, this brings “obvious potential issues of discrimination and equality of opportunity”.
According to Sadiq Khan, local borough police forces have since deleted their informal gang databases. “To many Londoners, the way [the matrix] is applied and enforced is a cause for concern and it needs to be comprehensively overhauled to ensure it is used lawfully and proportionately.”
He said Londoners need “confidence in how it is used by the Met”. His review noted that the gang matrix needed to adhere to strict data laws and be reviewed annually.