Somali women are working with Scottish police to stop gang violence

Nagad (left), six-month-old Newel and Samira at the Sunshine Koffee cafe in Glasgow. Photograph: Kirsty Anderson / Herald and Tim

UK – A Scottish policing unit that dramatically reduced Glasgow’s knife crime rate is responding to fears that gang violence affecting Somalis in London could spread north through a unique collaboration with the community’s women.

The pioneering Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) – which was visited by the Metropolitan police commissioner, Cressida Dick, earlier this year – is to work exclusively with women for the first time, having traditionally focused on breaking cycles of violent behaviour among young, usually white, males.

Officers will offer training in Scots law, conflict trauma and mental health to Somali women, who officers believe have the greatest access to the young people most at risk.

The One Community project has been developed by Khadija Coll, who has worked with refugees in Scotland and Somalia for more than 20 years. She was instrumental in the successful campaign to legislate against FGM in the Scottish parliament.

“When they see what is happening in London, their fear is real,” Coll said, “That’s why these Glasgow mums came together – because they don’t want that to happen here. Families are scattered all over the world, so it’s not unusual to have have an auntie here and another in London. They even found out about the two boys [two Somali teenagers who were stabbed to death in London in February within two hours of each other] before it was released to the press.”

The VRU’s acting director, Will Linden, said the collaboration was a direct response to community concerns. “We’ve had to on [those fears] because, if we’re talking about prevention, then just because the problems don’t exist here anywhere like they do in London doesn’t mean they won’t in the future. If we wait another year or two to intervene we might be fighting a losing battle.”

While there is no specific intelligence to suggest violent individuals are moving from London to Glasgow, Linden says “we know there is movement across the country within these communities”.

Glasgow’s Somali community is relatively small – about 3,000 – compared with the estimated 70,000 Somali’s in London.

There has already been displays of Somali gang activity in Scotland.  Mohammed Omar Abdi was executed on the streets of Scotland by his own cousin.
Abdi’s murder was allegedly sparked by a power struggle between factions of a London gang battling for control of Scotland’s drug trade.

There has been an increasing number of young Somali men being murdered in the U.K. often due to gang culture.  Most of these murders have been happening in London,  but their are signs that this brutal trend is spreading across Britain.