x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

More effort needed to control gangs

The role of family is central in fighting antisocial behaviour, but authorities must work with schools and parents to help solve the problem.

The UAE has taken several steps over the past few years to control organised youth violence. These measures include establishing community policing in Abu Dhabi. Among other project this includes visits to schools to build communication and address issues before they develop into trends.

And yet serious issues of gang violence persist. As The National reported on Sunday, an 18-year-old was killed and two people were injured in a clash between two rival gangs. Both groups were armed with swords and knives, raising questions about the effectiveness of recent police campaigns to regulate access to such weapons.

Such crimes, by youths and adults, are not new. In 2009, an armed gang attacked police who had raided a brothel, leaving one officer lying in a pool of blood. Last year alone, we reported on at least four separate violent incidents that involved gangs armed with knives and swords.

The persistence of such crimes requires comprehensive measures that should not be limited to arrests. When it comes to gangs of young people, a major cause of such crimes is too much free time, especially during the summer when students are on holiday and parents are at work. Officials have previously acknowledged this challenge and urged parents to ensure their children were filling their free time wisely.

The role of family is central in fighting antisocial behaviour, but authorities must work with schools and parents. Police, for example, can step up the campaign against misuse of swords. Previous enforcement and education campaigns have been short-lived. To be effective such efforts must continue all year, and may be needed most during summer.

Many cases of youth violence involve the underemployed, and everywhere on Earth jobless young men in groups can be trouble waiting to happen. Jobs and schooling are part of the remedy. Another essential measure is to provide sufficient sport and recreational facilities, as well as public libraries and other places for healthy, supervised social contact. Recent Abu Dhabi police statistics say the number of juvenile repeat offenders has declined, and this is attributed in part to greater availability of recreational facilities.

Officials should review the causes of these incidents and take more steps to deal with them. Parents have prime responsibility but can't solve this problem alone.