Head teachers in Birmingham are in denial over the number of children in their care who are joining vicious gangs, a senior police officer has claimed.
Superintendent Tom Coughlan said pupils in Washwood Heath used a school’s own computers to log into a gang website 4,000 times in eight weeks.
But the head continued to insist there was no evidence that gangs had infiltrated his school.
Supt Coughlan added that he could walk into the Holte School in Aston and every child would be able to name the gang that they saw themselves joining in the future.
The 17-year-old “who shoots someone in this city in two years time is a 15-year-old sitting in our schools in Birmingham at the moment”, he added.
Supt Coughlan, who commands the Aston area, is helping to co-ordinate the Reducing Gun Crime and Violence Programme - a joint initiative between the Government, police, city council and community groups.
Speaking at a meeting of the council equalities scrutiny committee, he admitted previous attempts to stop young people from joining gangs had not always been successful.
Some of the money awarded by the council to community organisations offering to mediate on the streets following the New Year shooting of Charlene Ellis and Letisha Shakespeare in 2003 had disappeared into the pockets of the gangs, he said.
“They asked for money and we said OK but who are you going to work with and what are your outcomes?” he said.
“They said ‘we can’t tell you that, but give us the money’. So we did.”
He disclosed that in the past two days Birmingham police had:
* arrested a person on suspicion of hiding a nine millimetre machine gun with 50 bullets on the top of a wardrobe in a child’s bedroom;
* arrested eight suspected drug dealers accused of running an £800,000-a-year business from their mobile phones.
The use of former gang members to act as mentors was a “risk worth taking” in the fight to persuade young people to adopt a different lifestyle.
Supt Coughlan also urged the council to consider evicting convicted drug dealers and gang members from local authority housing.
He called on the cabinet to discuss why tenants could be evicted for non-payment of rent but not for dealing in drugs or joining gangs.
His strongest criticism was reserved for Birmingham schools which he said were prepared to take child abuse and drug use seriously but seemed uninterested in tackling the gangs and guns culture.
He added: “If I went into any Birmingham school to talk about gangs, the kids themselves would know more about it than then teachers.
“No one is highlighting it. There is no assessment, no framework, no referrals. Some of the head teachers have their heads in the sand over this problem.”
Head teachers had a responsibility to address the gangs issue and could not “dump” the matter on to the police.
Supt Coughlan added: “It is in their schools, it is affecting their pupils and they have a statutory responsibility to deal with it.”
He insisted efforts to steer young people away from gangs were beginning to have an impact.
Gang-related murders in Birmingham fell from 27 in 2002/3 to four so far this year. But Supt Coughlan admitted jailed older gang leaders were being replaced by “a lot of young people carrying weapons in public places and not being afraid to discharge them in the day”.