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30 August, 2006

Young people take action against Knife Crime in Waltham Forest

Two new Youth Act groups came together on Thursday 24 August at a special event to address knife crime in Waltham Forest. They were joined by representatives from the Centre of Crime and Justice Studies (CCJS), and well established local project, ‘Defending Da Hood’, part of the London Against Gun and Knife Crime Alliance.

Hosted by the Citizenship Foundation, the seminar offered the two groups the chance to speak to experts already working to combat knife crime. Both groups, ‘Changes’ (from Willowfield School), and ‘Movement’ (from George Mitchell School), are working to reduce knife crime in Waltham Forest and have recently completed the Foundation’s Youth Act training scheme to empower young people to take positive action to change their local community for the better.

Chris Eades from CCJS, who has recently published a well received paper on the subject titled “Knife Crime: Ineffective reactions to a distracting problem? – A review of evidence and Policy” spoke about approaches that work and those that don’t. He stated the need to move the focus away from the knife itself to concentrate on the real issues behind violent crime. Fear, he stated was a major cause. Where young people are afraid, of being bullied or attacked, they start to carry knives. And where a few young people in a school or community start to carry knives, the situation can snowball very quickly with more people becoming afraid and carrying knives themselves.

He located the situation in Waltham Forest within the wider national context in the UK, explaining that the chance of a young person dying through violent crime doubles nearly every year from 14-21. He added that research showed that those who carry knives have little awareness about how much damage they can cause, and that many knife wounds inflicted just to injure someone actually prove to be fatal.

Mike, from ‘Defending da hood’ then spoke about his work with gangs in the area. ‘Defending da hood’ is a successful project set up by the Community Safety Team to tackle violent crime in Waltham Forest. Their work targets young people at risk of offending and has won numerous awards. Mike spoke to the groups about his work mediating between local gangs, and gave examples of violent situations and ways he had intervened. He spoke of the importance of reaching out to young people.

Both Youth Act groups asked a lot of questions and took on board ideas about peer influence such as ‘each one teach one’, to effect positive change in the community. They are now looking into developing workshops with a youth focus to get young people involved in changing attitudes to bullying, fear and carrying knives.

The Willowfield group is looking to develop workshops to take to year 7 classes in local primary schools, while the group from George Mitchell wants to work with different parts of the community, including shop workers, local police and councillors to tackle the causes of knife crime. They also want to work within their own school.

Youth Act Trainer, Ade Sofola, said “The reality for many young people is that knife crime is an all too real part of their lives in this part of London. These two groups of young people have decided that they want to make a difference and this seminar has been part of their journey to make Waltham Forest as safer place to live and grow up in.”


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