Birmingham & Black Country

Anti-gang campaigner against 'threatening' music videos

Image caption Kirk Dawes feels that the internet is making it easy for people to access music videos

A leading anti-gang campaigner is calling for action to be taken against internet music videos which he says glorify guns and gang violence.

Kirk Dawes is a former police officer who runs the Centre for Conflict Transformation, a company helping to prevent gang killings in Birmingham.

He believes that gangs are using music videos to encourage violent revenge attacks against their rivals, saying: "The biggest threat to the community is the way that the internet makes it easy to pass messages.

"Some of the messages are threatening and some of them glamorise guns."

'Fuelling' gang incidents

Search on the internet with some key words relating to gang names in the West Midlands and you find a whole series of music videos.

They show young men making gang signs with their hands, talking about guns jamming, sneering at their rivals.

The BBC met Golden Child, a rapper, working in a music studio in Stechford. He was rehearsing a rap about death, including the murder of a close friend in a shooting.

He is not linked to the gangs, but is concerned by their lyrics.

"There's so much gang related incidents and deaths," he said.

"People need to start realising that through these music videos and tracks that they're putting out it's fuelling it even more."

In September, an 18-year-old rapper from London became the first person in England and Wales to be served with a gang injunction.

It meant he was not allowed to hang out with more than two people in his local area or walk down certain streets.

He was also banned from making any songs or videos that might encourage violence.

'Positive vibes'

West Midlands Police are about to introduce a new taskforce targeting urban street gangs. They have been aware for many years that gangs use social media sites.

Image caption Derek Webley said it was important to preserve freedom of expression

Det Ch Insp Darren Miles said they do monitor the sites.

"It's only a very small part of our intelligence information that we use to target gangs," he said.

"It's not for me as a police officer to dictate what takes place on social media, the information is out there and we will use it."

Derek Webley, chairman of the West Midlands Police Authority, said they would be loathe to ban the music videos.

"If there are criminal activities the police will deal with that, but there's the whole issue of freedom of expression, freedom of the arts and I feel those negative lyrics and vibes are actually being combatted by some very positive videos."

Earlier this year, a group of young people from the West Midlands made a video starring pop stars and Premier League footballers aimed at stopping people joining gangs.

It was made to support the No Postcodes campaign, so named because many inner-city gangs are divided into postcode area.

The video, No postcodes - no gangs, starred DJ Fresh and members of bands including Elbow and Chase & Status.

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