This is Local London Friday 25th May
Exclusive By Hannah Williamson »
An ex-member of one of Croydon's largest criminal gangs claims the notorious Don't Say Nothing (DSN) no longer exists.
Mikey Giwa was a prominent member of DSN, whose members have been jailed for offences including armed burglary and robbery, but turned his life around and is working as a mentor with anti-knives organisation Lives Not Knives (LNK).
DSN have been linked with an attack on two police officers in the town centre in 2008, and the murder of 16-year-old Wesley Sterling, stabbed after a large group, allegedly of DSN members, caused a fight attempting to gatecrash a party he was at in 2010.
Mr Giwa, who served time in prison for affray, said the gang had not been in existence since his release two-and-a-half-years ago.
He said: "This gang you are talking about is from years ago. We are in 2012, I'm talking about 2007, 2006, the gang is dead now.
Mikey Giwa with fellow mentor Tara Norwood and 'Lives Not Knives' founder Eliza Rebeiro
"If one person from Croydon and one person from a different area decide to have a fight on the High Street, when they go to court they say it is gang related or because of the DSN, but the DSN is dead.
"There will be younger people probably from Croydon saying 'Yeah we're DSN,' but doing that is making the media and police think the DSN is still active.
"Speaking for myself and what I know, the gang DSN is dead."
The 23-year-old said prison time convinced him to change his ways.
He said: "One of my friends got stabbed and he died and I just thought that is not the way forward.I don't want to be getting stabbed and killed.
"If I don't turn my life around for the better, something bad is going to happen to me.
"When I used to see police back in the day my instinct was they are just going to come to me so just run for it, and I don't want to be living like that. That's not the way I want to live my life."
Mr Giwa admitted there were things he regretted from his past.
He said: "I have seen a few people I've done wrong in the past, someone I might have had a fight or got into an argument with.
"They recognise my face and try to hide away, but I approach them and let them know I am sorry for what I've done.
"Everyone I've done things to, if they want to speak to me about how I affected their life they can do that through LNK. I am really sorry and if I could change it, I would."
He hopes his work with LNK, in schools and in the community, will deter youths from a life of crime.
He said: "The only way it will stop is for someone like me and a few of my friends to sit down with this young kids and say 'Right, we're older than you, we've been through what you are talking about, 'llow it.
"Go to school, go to college and get your education, don't be hurting people.
"I've moved on from being in a gang now, to trying to help people that are in gangs or people that want to get out of gangs. When I got introduced to LNK I thought 'This is the answer.'
"Croydon is not a bad place, let's put Croydon on the map as a good place to come to. If you want to, jump on my wave and help stop your little brother or sister from doing all these stupid things."
To get in touch with Lives Not Knives email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit livesnotknives.com