The positive impact of LSBU’s research on LondonWe've supported London Borough of Waltham Forest with a study on street gangs, and are collaborating on the GreenSCIES project to deliver low carbon, affordable energy
Waltham Forest – From Postcodes to Profits
London South Bank University (LSBU) has a strong history of supporting local councils with research into topical issues affecting the Capital.
In June 2018, Waltham Forest Council commissioned a team of LSBU academics to produce an in-depth study looking at how the operation of street gangs has developed in the borough over a ten-year period. The report was commissioned after the Council noticed an increase in violent crime coupled with a significant transformation in the way that gangs were carrying out their activities, in contrast with a decade earlier.
The research commission came at a crucial time, given the extent of media coverage of violence on the city’s streets and the pressure being placed on London’s Mayor to find pragmatic ways to tackle the problem.
LSBU’s gangs report was impactful when it was published. Extensive high profile media coverage of the findings helped to better inform an understanding of gang activity in London, while simultaneously generating useful discussion among key decision makers in local and central government.
The authors spoke to current and former gang members and practitioners from a wide range of disciplines, to better understand the behaviour, make-up, recruitment and purpose of gangs so that the Council could build on the interventions and services already in place.
While a previous study published ten years earlier, found that gangs focused mainly on postcode territories and demonstrated their identity and gang affiliation through “colours” and other insignia, the new report demonstrates a marked shift in behaviour towards a more organised business operating model focused on the drugs market and the desire for profits.
The main findings were:
- Gangs are becoming more economically driven and are operating on ‘county lines’, using young people to courier drugs beyond London;
- Territory is no longer strongly linked to postcodes, but is a business marketplace;
- There has been an increase in the involvement of women and girls, as they have a relative “invisibility” and are less likely to be searched by police;
- Gangs are divided about the use of social media, with some operating an “off grid” approach and using older technology, while others use it to reinforce “brand” and gang identity.
Waltham Forest Council followed up on the report by establishing the borough’s first financial investigative unit with the specific remit of investigating money-laundering, with powers to seize criminal assets.
The report informed a joint initiative between Waltham Forest Council and the Metropolitan Police to crack down on gang activity, leading to a significant 38% reduction in gang-related crime in affected areas.
The study has been extremely successful in highlighting the need to address the ever-changing nature of gang-related activity and violence in our cities. The positive outcomes seen in Waltham Forest, have the potential to influence other parts of the UK, through a ‘ripple effect’. This research is also having a wider impact because lead author, Professor Andrew Whittaker has been invited to be an adviser for the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology’s review of gang interventions and to be a guest speaker on the subject, at home and abroad, in Canada and the US. He is also serving as a Commissioner on the Poverty and Inequality Commission for the Smith Institute, chaired by Baroness Tyler, in the London Borough of Enfield.
Project Lead: Dr Andrew Whittaker, Associate Professor and Head of the Serious Violence research cluster at LSBU
Smart Energy Network
In March 2019, Green Smart Community Integrated Energy Systems (GreenSCIES) began its first trial with LSBU and partners – Transport for London and Islington Council - thanks to funding support from the Government’s modern industrial strategy and the Department for Business Energy and Innovation Strategy (BEIS).
The aim of the GreenSCIES 1 project was to deliver low carbon, affordable energy through a novel smart energy system that connects flexible electricity demands, such as heat pumps and electric vehicles, to intermittent renewable energy sources, such as solar power. This smart grid energy system has been designed to provide a sustainable energy supply for local business districts and domestic homes.
Sources of inner city excess heat being looked at include sewers, supermarkets, cable tunnels and data centres.
Professor Graeme Maidment, heads up this research project which LSBU is spearheading in partnership with TfL and Islington Council. With a 30-year career history spent perfecting air conditioning and refrigeration systems, researching ground source energy systems and tackling the problem of how to cool down the London Underground, Professor Maidment brings a wealth of expertise to the role. Graeme still teaches in LSBU’s School of Urban Engineering but he has also been seconded to work as a consultant on GreenSCIES, on behalf of BEIS.
With the Mayor of London’s goal of ensuring that the Capital achieves zero-carbon status by 2050, this study is a vital initiative in terms of exploring the possibilities of using waste heat to help power London’s homes and businesses, cutting energy costs and reducing carbon emissions.
Projects such as GreenSCIES demonstrate that London based higher education institutions are at the forefront of ground-breaking new research of international significance, striving to improve the lives of people not just in London, but globally.