Cash-strapped Britain called on teachers, doctors and youth workers Tuesday to help tackle a rising tide of gang and youth violence blamed for contributing to a wave of rioting in English cities this summer.
The disorder put pressure on the Conservative-led coalition, in power since May last year, to reverse spending cuts on policing ordered to help reduce a record budget deficit.
But publishing a report into gang violence ordered by Prime Minister David Cameron in the wake of the riots, Interior Minister Theresa May said front-line policing could be maintained despite cuts in budgets.
What matters is how you spend that money, she told parliament, dismissing opposition Labour taunts that the 1.2 million pounds ($1.9 million) of new funding she announced for a program to tackle gang culture was completely inadequate.
The outbreak of violence that spread from London to Birmingham, Manchester and other urban areas damaged Britain's reputation for stability ahead of next year's London Olympics.
Although gangs were not the sole cause of the riots - fewer than one in ten of those arrested outside London were known gang members - they were still a factor in the unrest and their activity needed to be curbed, May said.
The fact that so many young people, who are not involved in gangs, were still willing to carry out such serious acts of criminality merely reinforces the urgent need for action, May added.
Opposition Labour said the loss of 16,000 police officers and cuts to local authority budgets as a result of the coalition's austerity program would undermine the coalition's plans.
When you look at the reality behind the rhetoric, the truth is the government is still making it harder, not easier, for police and the communities to tackle gang violence and cut crime, said Labour home affairs spokeswoman Yvette Cooper.
May outlined measures to prevent children turning to violence early on and to turn them away from crime in later life, from identifying vulnerable families to improving literacy at schools.
Hospital emergency wards would be encouraged to refer young people admitted with knife wounds to local social care, with youth workers potentially based at the hospitals to identify those at risk.
Police would gain powers to obtain court injunctions banning gang activity against children aged as young as 14 and could also be given additional powers of curfew, May added.
(Reporting by Tim Castle; Editing by Rosalind Russell)