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Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Teens carry knives for many reasons, says youth mentor

North London Today

Wednesday, 04 July 2012


Complex issue: Adria Bennett

By Ruth McKee

IN the wake of the convictions of the young murderers of Leroy James and Steven Grisales and with Negus McClean’s killers still at large, questions are being asked about what drives a teenager to take another person’s life.

Enfield’s Youth Engagement Panel, which was set up in 2008, after a spate of youth violence resulted in the deaths of four youngsters in street attacks, works with young people in the borough.

Adria Bennett, mentoring co-ordinator, stressed the complexity of the issue.

She said: “There isn’t just one reason why young people carry knives – whether it’s drugs, a postcode rivalry or for protection.

“It’s not just Enfield either – it’s south London and east London, anywhere really where
there’s a large amount of social housing and social problems.”

With so many commentators shocked that young people seem able and equipped to end another person’s life so easily, Ms Bennett is adamant that young men do not feel they are “untouchable” by the law as they can only be tried as juveniles.

“A lot of young people are actually very scared of jail and they know that these days it’s not a case of being tried as a juvenile,” she said.

Working with young people on a daily basis, she sees what is going on at street level and believes some of the borough’s problems stem from a street culture where young men are unable to articulate their feelings and frustrations over opportunities lost.

“It’s also a question of services available to young people,” added Adria. “For example, schools need more money to provide more people to go and speak to young people.

“Maybe some of these lads need to be placed on a reduced timetable. For whatever reason these young boys are not academic so maybe we need to look at getting them into skilled training.

“Many simply stop going to school because at some point during the lessons they fall behind. Threatening them doesn’t help, shouting at them doesn’t help and fining their mum for them not attending doesn’t help.”

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