Mediator: Twilight Bey takes on gangs (Picture: Jeremy Selwyn)
27 November 2012
Young street gang members in London are being given tours around the City in an effort to divert them from a life of crime.
Youth workers say they are trying to provide teenagers with ideas for alternative ways of earning money other than stealing or drug dealing. The gangsters are shown the major finance houses and Bank of England.
Community workers say many are too frightened to travel across London because of fears of “postcode” violence and attack from rival gangs.
Twilight Bey, a youth engagement manager for the Pathways to Progress scheme, said: “Some young people say they have never been out of their estates because of the perceived threat from rival groups. Often it is just fear, but that fear paralyses young people’s lives and prevents them from taking opportunities.”
Mr Bey, 42, who works with teenagers on the Stonebridge estate in a Brent council-funded scheme, said some young people refused to attend job or school interviews because it meant travelling through rival territory.
The youth worker, who once brokered peace talks between the infamous LA gangs the Bloods and the Cripps, is now trying to bring rival gangs together in north-west London.
He said many young people copied the lifestyles of more senior gang members or drug dealers.
He said: “We are trying to offer an alternative view, to broaden their view and the scope of their lives.
“One of the key things is for them to try and understand there are other ways to earn money. The racket they have chosen may be lucrative with high gains in the short term but the risks are also high.”
Mr Bey also teaches gang members about London’s history. He said: “We go to Fleet Street and talk about the importance of communication, to Greenwich and talk about time.
“We look at the history of the City and visit streets such as Milk Street and try and understand how things were traded so they can see alternative ways of making a living.
“The biggest thing out of all of this is to re-introduce young people to ‘process thinking’, that there is a process of getting a job and making a living — they are so used to things happening instantly, at the click of a finger. They are often totally blown away by it.”
Labour councillor for Stonebridge Zaffar van Kalwala, an investment banker, said: “I think young people who are at risk of joining gangs should be given opportunities to work in investment banks. They have the raw skills and hunger to achieve.
“As a community I think we are at a tipping point. Do we say we accept gangs or do we say we do something about it?”