North London Today
Wednesday, 11 July 2012
Fighting youth crime: Charity founder Hillary Thompson
LAST week the Advertiser investigated the problem of youth knife crime in the borough.
It came in the wake of the convictions of the murderers of Leroy James and Steven Grisales, both of whom were stabbed to death in Enfield last year.
Although it is clear that there is no simple solution to stopping young people’s dangerous attraction to crime and violence, one woman is doing everything in her power to break down gang culture.
Hillary Thompson set up the Life Youth Resource Centre in the wake of a spate of gang-related murders in the borough in 2008.
She is focused on turning young people away from gang activity through intense, one-to-one mentoring.
According to the chief executive of the charity, it has made “quite an impact” on young people.
She told the Advertiser: “We have young people who have turned away from gang life and gone back into college.
“We have worked with young people who were at one stage really low achievers in school, but one young man then went on to became a prefect.”
Talking to Hillary, the stark reality of working within gang culture becomes clear.
“A lot of the young people we work with have friends who are still in gangs,” she said.
“We had a boy who was trying to get away from the gang and someone still in it took a dog around to his house and attacked him.
“The parents had to move out of the area practically overnight,” she added, explaining that while in theory, for a young person to turn their back on a life with gangs is quite simple, the reality is that they have to reject their street families.
Despite the fact that within the last two months two teenagers from Enfield have been convicted of the murders of other teens, Hillary is still optimistic about helping more young people in the future.
“With all these young people, when we are in a one-to-one environment, you realise that they are really just children,” she said.
“There is always a root cause and when we get to the root of why a child is behaving like this, then we can really make a difference to their lives, their families’ lives and their future.”
Email: By Ruth McKee