London police plan US-style gang summit

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LONDON, Nov 17 (Reuters) London police said they would hold U.S-style summits with leaders of the capital's most violent gangs in a bid to end a spiralling number of murders.

Dozens of teenagers have been gunned down or stabbed to death on London's streets this year in an escalation of violence blamed on rival gangs that has shocked communities and alarmed politicians.

Commander Shaun Sawyer, head of London Police's Violent Crime yesterday Directorate,said they wanted to call in gangs to try to end the killings, with a threat that they would face tough measures if they did not comply.

The plan is based on ''Operation Ceasefire'', a successful project initiated in Boston to tackle youth homicides.

''For the top end and the most violent offenders we have gone literally around the world to see what works,'' Sawyer told BBC TV. ''From America we are taking some of the ideas ... and this is this idea of calling in the most violent offenders.

''It's a tactic we want to explore and see if it works in London.'' Although police say violent crime is down across Britain, barely a week goes by without news that another teenager has been murdered. The latest occurred in north London on Wednesday when a 17-year-old man was shot dead in Stoke Newington.

The deaths have created much soul-searching, and prompted promises of actions from the government and possibly new tougher laws.

As in many cities the world over, gang crime is related to battles over territory. In Britain, police say gangs often identify themselves by their ''postcode'' -- the letters and numbers used by the Post Office for different districts.

London police said they will focus the Boston format on five areas in the south of the city which have been hardest hit by gang violence.

However, Sawyer said, in order to be effective, the police had to be backed by the community and local authorities to provide support to help divert young people away from crime.

''This is what the community wants -- it is for us to sit down with the most violent offenders and make clear to them the damage they are doing to communities,'' he said.

Those who do not comply will then be targeted.

''It's choice,'' he said, describing it as a carrot and stick approach.

REUTERS SYU RK0840

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