There will be a crackdown on gang culture in the wake of the riots, David Cameron announced.
The prime minister signalled a new drive to drive to destroy gangs after being informed they were the driving force behind the looters in Manchester, Salford and London.
Senior police who briefed MPs and political leaders, including Cameron, said that well-known inner city gang leaders were at the nucleus of the riots, especially on the second and third day of the looting, even though the majority of rioters were not in gangs.
Cameron also plans to enlist the help of experts, such as Bill Bratten, the former chief of police in New York and Los Angeles.
Graham Stringer, the Manchester Blackley MP says the government’s approach to tackling gangs had been under-resourced, with money being ploughed into tracking Muslim extremists instead.
Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, and Vernon Coaker, the shadow home office minister, have been demanding action for months on gangs, following a major report on the topic commissioned by Labour and published in June 2010 under the Tory government.
The report found there was no co-ordinated response to gangs and that responses were patchy and, at times, counter-productive. The report found:
• The police had a well-developed understanding of gang activity but tended to focus on enforcement – "catch and convict", and there was less consideration of the related safeguarding implications for young people involved in gang activity
• Youth offending teams varied considerably in their approach, with some tending to focus on enforcement rather than prevention and rehabilitation, though there were some examples of good practice
• Prisons often had the least well-developed approach to managing the range of issues for young people involved in gang activity while they were in custody, with some young offenders' institutions developing mechanisms to keep known gangs apart, which risked reinforcing gang identity and replicating the "postcode boundaries" of gangs in the community.
The report also found that "within and across the agencies inspected, there were some good initiatives and some good practice, but information-sharing was generally inadequate and practitioners felt they lacked the support, training and range of interventions to deal with young people in gangs.
"Young people themselves said that gang membership was a source of protection, but also of a source of fear and that friendship, territoriality and 'respect' defined and justified gang activity. Young women's positions were less clear-cut and they could be used, protected or mistrusted," it said.
The report, entitled The Management of Gang Issues Among Children and Young People in Prison Custody and the Community, found that "information and intelligence resources had not been fully capitalised, mapped, coordinated and shared.
“Intelligence flows to and from, and between, young offender institutions and other agencies, including Youth Offending Teams and the police, were sporadic, and there was a generally low volume and quality of intelligence from seconded officers in YOTs. This was disappointing, especially considering that there are seconded police officers in both YOTs and YOIs. This was an underused resource," it said.
It also discovered safeguarding arrangements for children and young people associated with gangs were underdeveloped in some local authority areas and in the prison estate. There was a lack of a shared or clearly defined understanding of gang-related safeguarding concerns and few specific procedures to address them.
The report continued: "Prisons differed in their approach to the management of gang-related concerns – some operated separation and others enforced integration. There were difficulties with both approaches."
When asked in March what the government was doing about the report, justice minister Crispin Blunt replied:
"The report raises important issues about how we tackle gangs both at local and national level. We are considering our response in the light of the government's focus on greater local accountability and the need to develop local solutions based on local needs. We are committed to working with partners to tackle gang-related crime and provide support to help people leave the gang lifestyle."
In January the Home Office introduced pilots for gang civil injunctions, particularly aimed at those aged 14-17. The civil injunctions allow local authorities and police to ban named individuals from engaging or assisting in gang activity, including wearing distinctive colours or entering rival territory. They can also ban individuals from using social network sites for gang meet-ups.
The power of arrest can be added to the injunction, but breach of an injunction is a civil contempt of court punishable by up to two years in prison. The maximum term of an injunction is two years.
"Gang related violence" was defined in the 2009 act as: "Violence or a threat of violence which occurs in the course of, or is otherwise related to, the activities of a group that:
a) Consists of at least three people; b) uses a name, emblem or colour or has any other characteristic that enables its members to be identified by others as a group; and c) is associated with a particular area."
Southwark council in south London became the first council to obtain an injunction.
Barbara Wilding, the former chief constable of South Wales Police, caused a furore in 2008 when she warned family ties have been abandoned in place of "tribal loyalty" among young gang members, who have become "almost feral".