This blog is all that remains from the former website which was closed after 8 years of providing a 'wiki' of urban street gangs in London.

An unfinished history of modern urban street gangs in London has been used to replace some of the content of the original site, beginning here

Sunday, 31 March 2013

Willesden mentoring organisation launches recruitment drive

London24 (Kilburn Times)Dodd Prescott and Kelly Odeyola of Potential Mentoring

Max Walters, ReporterSunday, March 31, 2013
8:00 AM

Potential Mentoring are looking for more mentors

A community organisation which helps troubled youths in the borough is looking to recruit mentors to use their expertise to guide and advice children in difficulty.

Potential Mentoring, which is based in Church Road, Willesden, are holding a recruitment and training day for anyone looking to get involved.

The project, which was set-up in 2006, was founded by Kelly Oyebola, an ex-Probation Officer and qualified social worker with 18 years experience of working in criminal justice and social care.

“It has been a rewarding few years and we have supported many families, children and young people - making a real difference in our local community, which is what we set out to achieve from the beginning,” said Mr Oyebola.

He added: “We are hoping that people wanting to contribute to their local community will join us as mentors and help us support more children and young people who live in Brent or the surrounding areas of Brent.”

The recruitment and training open day will take place on Saturday May 15 but anyone interested in applying will need to book soon.

To book a place contact or call either Dodd Prescott on 0798 5422049 Kelly Oyebola on 07949 664336 or the office on 0208 459 6000.

Friday, 29 March 2013

Gang Documentary Offers Hope Of Peace

The Voice
New film about Birmingham's two notorious gangs shows power of reconciliation
Written by Poppy Brady
29/03/2013 01:32 PM

INSPIRATIONAL: Penny Woolcock, film director (second left) with actor Dylan Duffus; Simeon Moore, CEO of the social enterprise One Mile Away, and Alicia Barnes, company co-ordinator

THEY USED to be sworn enemies caught up in bitter gangland feuds – now young men from rival gangs are working together to end a 20-year turf war that has blighted Birmingham.

The quest for a truce between the notorious Burger Bar Boys and Johnson Crew is the story of One Mile Away, an award-winning documentary currently showing in Birmingham.

Movers and shakers from the Probation Service, the Youth Offending Service and Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust watched a screening at the Lighthouse Young People’s Centre in Lozells.

They praised the former gang members for having the courage to try to broker a truce, which the young men themselves say continues to be a work in progress. Many organisations have pledged offers of help to support them.

And out of the feature length film, a social enterprise of the same name has been set up by the former gang members to mentor and support today’s generation away from gang warfare.

Teaching resource packs have also been created for use in schools. It shows how the work of ordinary people can help transform entrenched social problems.

So far, it seems to be working. Ten years ago the drive-by shooting of teenage girls Letisha Shakespeare and Charlene Ellis shocked Britain. Now, not one single gang-related firearm has been discharged in Birmingham since last October.

It’s well documented that the rivalry between the two gangs centred around postcodes and they live within a mile from each – hence the name of the film. The Aston-based Burgers are B6, with the Handsworth-based Johnson, B21, separated by Birchfield Road.

As one of the film’s stars Dylan Duffus puts it: “We are arguing over postcodes that don’t even belong to us.”

The person pivotal to all this is the film’s acclaimed director Penny Woolcock, who bears a resemblance to the actress Helen Mirren, both in looks and voice.

One Mile Away has already scooped the prestigious Michael Powell Award for the best British feature film at the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2012.

But it was during the work on her earlier Birmingham-based ‘grime musical’, 1 Day, where she gained the trust of gang members who contacted her again to ask if she would help them try to bring peace in their community.

Woolcock said: “The fact that I knew people on both sides helped and I wanted to do something to help the situation.

“It was tragic to see those in the hood – clever, articulate, interesting and talented people killing each other over streets they don’t own,” the director added.

It’s clear that the film’s main players – Dylan, Zimbo (Simeon Moore), Shabba (Matthias Thompson) are smart, bright people who want their own children to have a life different from their own.

The film was produced with support from BritDoc, and funded by Channel 4 and Creative England.

One Mile Away is being screened tonight (March 29) and tomorrow night from 6.30pm at The Drum Arts centre, Potters Lane, Aston. It will be screened on Channel 4 on April 11.

There are also London screenings at the following dates and locations:

April 1 - Screening starts at Hackney Picturehouse, London at 6.30pm. Q+A from 8pm.

April 2 - Screening at Brixton Ritzy, London at 6.30pm, Q+A from 8pm

April 2 - Screening at Peckhamplex Peckham, London at 8.15pm, Q+A at 9.45pm

Saturday 6th April - Screening at Aubin Cinema, London at 2.30pm. Q+A at

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Solving Lewisham gang problem is 'easy peasy' says Stephen Lawrence's friend Duwayne Brooks / Operation Trilogy Plus

This Is Local London

3:26pm Thursday 28th March 2013 in NewsBy Mark Chandler

Duwayne Brooks

SOLVING the problem of gangs is "easy peasy" - call them in for a sitdown meeting and tell them to shape up or ship out.

That's the view of childhood friend of Stephen Lawrence, Councillor Duwayne Brooks, whose sights are set on becoming Mayor of Lewisham at the next election.

He says his first move as the borough's new leader would be to send letters to gang members inviting them to meet him at the town hall.

The Lib Dem politician, who was with Stephen when the teenager was murdered by a racist gang in Eltham 20 years ago, says the struggle he has faced since means crime families already respect him and will take him up on the offer.

He said: "Gang members will be told to come and see me.

"There'll be two choices. One will be to engage and come on board and follow me to help make Lewisham a safer place.

"Or, if you want to continue in this gang stuff, then I'll get rid of you and your family."

Rather than limos with blacked-out windows, he expects them to turn up in minicabs, which gang members often use to move about undetected.

He said: "It'll be easy peasy."

Cllr Brooks said his time growing up in Deptford means he knows a lot of the Lewisham gangsters already and that it will be the first time they can relate to someone in charge of Lewisham.

He said: "I grew up with that lot and a lot of these gang youngsters are relatives of those sorts of people.

"If I don't know you directly, it's indirectly through one or two people. But they all know of me.

"They respect me already and it's that which will encourage them to engage.

"My aim is to ensure no parent has to get that dreaded phonecall saying your child has been stabbed or caught in crossfire."

The councillor said "good work" pursued already by Lewisham police, hassling gang nominals over the smallest things like TV licences, would be the key to driving them out.

He said: "It will be a life of misery, simple as that. I'm not going to allow you to cause misery for others in my borough."

Gangs targeted

Cllr Brooks' comments came as the Met launched Operation Hawk this week, clamping down on gang activity.

In Greenwich alone, 18 arrests were made in Thamesmead, Eltham, Plumstead and Greenwich, mainly for drug offences, while 60 wraps of crack cocaine were seized.

A further 19 warrants were issued across Lewisham, leading to nine arrests and the seizure of stolen goods and drugs.

Police also worked with officers from Trident in a separate operation, arresting two gang members for non-payment of fines and recovering knives from the River Quaggy.

Detective Inspector Matt Duncan from the Trident Central Gang Crime Command said: "This activity demonstrates to all gang members that we have a zero tolerance approach towards gang crime and one of our tactics is to work continuously to create a hostile environment for offenders, gang members and those who support them and their criminal activity."

Call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Lewisham Council

Lewisham Council says it has a range of programmes in place to deal with gang crime from youth multi-agency risk assessment conferences to the Safer Lewisham Partnership

A spokeswoman said: "The vast majority of young people in Lewisham are law abiding.

"The partnership of the council, Lewisham police and partner agencies will continue to relentlessly target the small minority who commit serious violent offences, and support those who wish to exit the gang lifestyle and those at risk. The support of the local community is invaluable to this joint partnership."

"Since 2009 the council and police have been providing young people involved in serious youth violence the means to exit this lifestyle through tailored diversions.

"One of these is Operation Trilogy Plus, a joint initiative to tackle serious youth violence in the borough by approaching young people on the peripheries of gangs, offering them an alternative to a life of crime by giving them bespoke support and showing them at there are alternative life choices they can make, helping them through practical support, like education, housing and mentoring. "

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

In focus: ‘How I escaped the Tottenham and Hackney post-code war’

Tottenham Journal / Hackney GazetteRobyn Travis outside the Hackney Fields Estate

Ian CooperWednesday, March 27, 2013
5:00 PM

Robyn Travis grew up on the streets of Tottenham and Hackney, and soon became embroiled in a vicious turf war between the two areas. Now he is releasing a book, and hopes to encourage others to follow his example

London’s knife and gun crime problems have become a hot topic for the media industry over the last decade. Films such as ‘Kidulthood’, ‘Adulthood’, ‘Bullet Boy’ and, most recently, the acclaimed channel four series ‘Top Boy’ portray the capital’s streets as a sinister landscape of unremitting crime and violence. Robyn Travis disagrees with all of them.

“I’m not trying to disrespect any of them, but none of them carries a positive message like my book does,” he says. “They offer no explanation of youth before the teenage years, the years when you learn that if someone hits you, you hit them back to defend yourself.

“That lesson does not come from gang mentality, it comes from the home, and it comes from life on the street. These kids are not to go out and hit people first, but to defend themselves. But that kind of behaviour can lead to destruction.”

The book Robyn Travis refers to is ‘Prisoner to the Streets’, due for release this month. An account of the first 21 years of his life, it documents his involvement in the escalating violence between the young men of neighbouring estates in Hackney and Tottenham during the late 1990s and early 2000s, violence dubbed by the media as London’s ‘post-code war’.

It may be a sensational term, but it accurately described a series of running battles between the teenagers of Tottenham and Hackney. The rules were simple: if you were from another part of London, you were the enemy. If you strayed into enemy territory, you paid the price – and the punishment was dished out with a knife or a gun. It was a vicious, relentless turf war which to this day has claimed hundreds of young lives.

Robyn grew up on the Tiverton Estate in Tottenham, before he moved with his mother and older brother to the Holly Street estate in Hackney, and went to school at neighbouring London Fields Primary. It was the loyalties he felt to friends from all three parts of his life: Tottenham, Holly Street and London Fields, which led him into London’s turf war.

As a teenager, Robyn stabbed and was stabbed. He was knifed in the head, chest, leg and stomach. He had a gun held to his head, stood trail for and was cleared of attempted murder, and spent six months in a Jamaican jail for attempted drugs trafficking. Close friends died. Others went to prison. All, like Robyn, were trapped by ‘road life’.

‘Prisoner to the Streets’ does more than document these events. In his book, Robyn explores the motives behind his actions: loyalty to friends, loyalty to family, and, fundamentally, loyalty to your area: ‘reppin your endz’. Where other books and films dwell on the effects of the violence, Robyn seeks to explain the reasons behind it. But never does he excuse it.

“Post-code wars need to stop, that’s why I wrote the book, to show people that it is a way of life which doesn’t make sense,” he says. “I’ve seen it, lost friends through it. It’s not a nice place to be and I don’t want anyone else to go through the same experiences.”

He readily admits that after being stabbed in the stomach – almost fatally – he wanted to murder the boy responsible. Revenge consumed him for months afterwards. It was only a combination of factors: the death of his nan, and the murder of his close friend, Jadie, as well as time in a hellish Jamaican prison cell, which convinced him to escape the streets.

On the day I meet him, Robyn, now 28, and father to a young family, is set to return to Middlesex University, where he took a degree in criminology, to deliver a talk on gang violence. The fact he is on crutches, after an operation for a knee injury, does not stop him.

In recent years he has visited schools and worked with high-risk offenders in Islington and Hackney. Over the next 12 months, he plans to visit as many schools and youth facilities in the country as he can: all to keep other young men from repeating his mistakes.

“You cannot represent an area. You can’t hate people you do not know. It’s about the myth of not liking someone because they are not from your area. It’s about trying to teach people who think the same way that I used to think. It’s a way of thinking which is not productive. Too many young people are learning their lessons in prison.”

Joining him for the talk is Mark Prince, whose 15-year-old son Kiyan was stabbed to death outside the gates of his school in Edgware in 2006. Since then, Mr Prince has become Britain’s most high-profile voice in the fight against knife and gun crime.

“Me and Mark do a lot of gang talks together,” adds Robyn. “We know we can make a difference, but it’s hard for both of us. I’ve seen him come close to breaking down many times. For me, talking about the times I’ve been stabbed, the friends I’ve lost, you can’t pay me enough to talk about that, trust me. Having to back over those episodes was emotionally draining. Certain things I had run away from, I had to face them again.”

Nevertheless, ‘Prisoner to the Streets’ remains a message of hope: there is an escape, says Robyn. But attitudes need to change, both on the streets and in the government offices.

Territorial rivalry still claims lives in London. As recently as September 2011, a teenager holding her 11-month son was injured by fire from a shotgun in Queen’s Park. Police suggested the incident was gang-related: John Fearon Walk, where the shots were fired, is in Westminster, but Brent, Kensington and Chelsea are all nearby.

The riots of 2011 threw the issue of such violence into the spotlight spectacularly. A Home Office report, entitled ‘Ending gang and youth violence: one year on’, set out the response, and claimed good progress in a number of areas. Last year, a law was passed meaning any 16 or 17-year-old found carrying a knife will face a custodial sentence.

Robyn is unconvinced. Until the problem is tackled at its root, he says, and the police and authorities attempt to understand the frustrations of those on the streets, the problem will remain. “This country is not set on prevention, it is set on intervention. Youth workers of any background will say that this is not the way to make a change. All they do is tick boxes.

“These young people are smart. They feel a great sense of injustice. Instead of talking to people who don’t understand, they talk to people who understand where they are coming from, until they are old enough and mature enough to make sense of it and know how to defeat it. But some people never do defeat it, but I hope my book helps them to see that there is another way.”

Monday, 25 March 2013

Thusha Kamaleswaran takes her first steps towards recovery after Stockwell shooting

London Evening Standard

James Pepper and Rashid Razaq

25 March 2013

A schoolgirl who was told she would never walk again after she was gunned down while playing in her uncle’s shop today told of her joy after taking her first steps.

Thusha Kamaleswaran was five-years-old when she became Britain's youngest gun crime victim in March 2011 when she was caught in the crossfire during a gang shooting in a Stockwell, south London.

The youngster was left fighting for life after a bullet shattered her spine. Gunman Nathaniel Grant, 21, was jailed for a minimum of 17 years while fellow gang members Kazeem Kolawole, 19, and Anthony McCalla were jailed for 14 years each.

After spending more than 12 months in hospital and numerous operations Thusha, now seven, has taken her first tentative steps and today told how she still dreams of becoming dancer when she is older.

She said on ITV1's Daybreak: "I want to play with my friend and travel the world." The youngster, who was shown on CCTV dancing in the aisles when the shots were fired, also revealed how she undergoes two hours of rehabilitation exercises every day with the help of her family,

"I can't wait until I can walk properly on my own again," Thusha said.

"I've already taken some steps on the treadmill in my harness with my physio helping me. I want to dance around and play basketball with my friends."

Her overjoyed father, Jeyakumar Ghanasekaram, 38, said: "Thusha never gave up hope of walking again, even when she was in hospital and had to take over a year off school. She's so hard working and never stops smiling.

"She just wants to play with her friends like other children. She does her physio exercises every day with that dream in mind."

Only last month the family were told Thusha was making an excellent recovery and then two weeks later she was at Stoke Mandeville hospital in Buckinghamshire.

Mr Ghanasekaram, said: "They lifted her into a harness to support her weight while she put one foot in front of another on a specially designed treadmill. Seeing her walking again, even with that support, was like a miracle."

To donate, visit:

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Scrapping Trident 'Could Lead To Chaos'

The Voice
Activists say the newly-formed unit will not be as effective
Written by Jermaine Haughton
23/03/2013 11:50 AM

NEW GOALS: The launch of Trident Gang Command in February 2012

THE MURDER investigation unit of London’s Operation Trident has been disbanded, sparking fears the dedicated task force is on the verge of extinction.

Trident, part of the Metropolitan Police, was set up in 1998 specifically to target gun killings within the black community.

The changes mean all “black-on-black” gun killings and London murder cases will be transferred to Scotland Yard’s main homicide and serious crime division taking away Trident’s core function, according to critics.

Claudia Webbe, co-founder and former chair of Operation Trident’s Independent Advisory Group, believes the changes will deteriorate the unit’s position in the black community.

Webbe said: “The lack of foresight by the current leadership of the MPS (Metropolitan Police Service), the mayor (of London) and his advisors now mean that the strength of the Trident brand within the black community is now weakened and its previous successes will become a thing of the past.”

According to Lee Jasper, co-founder of Operation Trident, the latest restructuring is just the latest punitive change to deplete Operation Trident’s work.


Jasper argued that “since 2008, we have seen the year-on-year demise of Operation Trident. It has no credibility. Constant interfering and changes have turned Operation Trident into a shell of its former self.

“Unfortunately, we have moved no further forward (in Operation Trident’s goals). The number of murders has decreased but violence has increased.

“Parents are still scared of their children’s safety. The fear of crime is higher than ever before and we need a strong Trident.”

Operation Trident was launched after a decade-long rise in gun shootings in inner-city London, with 90 per cent of all homicide victims being black – particularly black males.

Running regular public meetings and talks in schools and colleges, Trident targeted the suppliers of guns and worked to re-establish trust in the police.

Jasper said: “Trident provided greater trust in the police, raised awareness and provided a safety net for more people from the community to give evidence and thus led to the gradual year-on-year reduction in gun crime.

According to him, “the low crime figures we see now, came about due to years of hard work, so to move away from that is crazy.”


A year ago, Trident was restructured to focus more intently on gang-related crime due to a substantial drop in fatal shootings in the capital to just five in 2012.

Webbe said: “The police use of the term gangs provides a dangerous shortcut to understanding youth conflict.

“There is no attempt to understand the broader and more complex social, cultural, economic and political context of ‘youth violence’ and the wider societal role and responsibility.”

The Met has dismissed claims that the newly-named Trident Gang Command is redundant. It said the shift in focus from using the weapon used in a crime to determine which department investigates is the right move.

But Steve Rodhouse, commander for gangs and organised crime, said: “I do recognise that Trident Gang Command has developed some significant experience around these investigations and has also developed good relationships with some of our BME communities most affected by gun crime.
“This expertise will not be lost and will still be available to investigators.”

Lee Jasper believes Operation Trident has fallen victim to government cuts, supported by London mayor Boris Johnson.

He claims current Met Police commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, lacks the will to oppose the changes.

“In my day, (Sir Ian) Blair and (Sir John) Stevens would have battled to keep police officers on the streets. Boris (Johnson) doesn’t seem to realise, or care, that cutting police officers equals chaos on the streets,” he argued, warning that “all hell will break loose, and this is why Trident is important.”

Friday, 22 March 2013

Dotun Adebayo Show 24th March 8pm-10pm


Please listen to the Dotun Adebayo Show on BBC London 94.9FM this Sunday, March 24 from 8pm-10pm.

Robyn Travis will be on for the full two hours talking about Prisoner to the Streets. It will be the first full interview with Robyn about the book, please listen and call in to the programme live on Sunday and tell London what you think about Prisoner to the Streets.

If you haven't read the book, but would like to share your thoughts on what's going on out there, the number to call live on Sunday is 0207 224 2000

See reviews for / buy a copy of Prisoner to the Streets at Amazon

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Newham’s peace campaigners YoungStars up for national award

The YoungStars of Newham who campaign against gang culture and postcode-related violence.

Melissa York, ReporterThursday, March 21, 2013 

A team of young campaigners who encourage others to reject gang violence have been nominated for a national volunteering award.

YoungStars, a group of young people from Newham, were chosen from hundreds of dedicated volunteers as one of three finalists in the ‘Team Activity’ category of the vInspired National Awards.

The annual ceremony, due to have taken place on Tuesday, aims to challenge negative attitudes towards young people by highlighting the creativity, motivation, and generosity of inspring volunteers and young-workers.

YoungStars was started by a group of college friends two years ago and they have launched a number of projects to campaign against gang culture and postcode-related violence.

Tahmid, a team member, said: “We don’t volunteer for recognition, but it’s great for us to know that people appreciate what we do.

“Hopefully we can inspire other young people to volunteer and make a difference in their communities.

“The more noise we make, the more people will listen. In two years, we’ve met so many young people doing good things.

“We need to expand this collective voice, take the Peace Pledge wherever we go, and carry on this work.”

YoungStars launched a Peace Pledge at the 02 Arena in 2011 to completely reject violence and actively practise ‘positive peer pressure’ and they have collected over 5,000 signatures from young people to date.

The team also work with schools, colleges, and youth centres in Newham but they plan to recruit members from other areas in 2013.

YoungStars are also looking forward to completing their plans for a Peace Garden in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and they will be launching a clothing line in the coming months to raise money for their work.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Brixton director raises £10,000 for new new film through ‘crowdfunding'

Miranda Bryant, Evening Standard

20 March 2013

A new film inspired by true stories of gang culture in south London is to be shot in Brixton after raising £10,000 online in just three days through “crowdfunding”.

Writer-director Rebecca Johnson secured the donations after posting a video of herself online standing in Stockwell Park Estate, where she plans to shoot the film, appealing for money.

Johnson, who is looking to cast young people from the area, won widespread acclaim for her short film Top Girl.

So far the project, which is set to start filming in August, has attracted the attention of investors including Laurie Holden, star of hit US TV series The Walking Dead.

Johnson said: “This is a unique project and one I have immense pride in as a Brixton resident.”

For more information visit

Friday, 15 March 2013

Bike It BMX scheme combatting gang culture in London

by Carlton Reid
Friday, March 15th 2013 at 10:51AM (

Industry seed-funded Bike It scheme uses a BMX pump track built as part of London 2012 Olympics legacy project.

A new cycling scheme is helping a school in East London keep kids away from gangs. The Sustrans-delivered Bike It scheme at Bow Boys school in Hackney uses a BMX pump track built as part of London 2012 Olympics legacy project managed by Access Sport. Bike It is a national school cycling initiative originally seed-funded by the UK bicycle industry via the Bike Hub levy.

The Bow BMX club holds after-school sessions each Thursday involving 17 children from years 7 to 9. Sustrans aims to roll out the initiative to other schools in deprived areas in London’s Olympic Boroughs, but needs to secure £200,000 in funding.

Sustrans Bike It Officer James Scott said: “Cycling is great way for kids to get active. Iit improves their health, helps them focus at school and boosts their self esteem. The BMX Club is a fantastic achievement for Bow Boys.

Dan Pitt, PE teacher at Bow Boys and Sustrans' Bike It champion said: “Bow Boys strongly encourages healthy lifestyles for our students and believe cycling is a fantastic way to get active.

“We are always looking to expand opportunities for our students and hope that the BMX Club will help to address the gang culture in Tower Hamlets while providing students with a great sense of achievement.”

The Bike It project, seed-funded by Bike Hub in 2004, now has over 60 full-time officers working in over 700 schools each year. Running since 2003, the Bike Hub levy is voluntary, paid by the majority of UK bike shops and suppliers.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Mothers Against Gangs steer youngsters away from crime

Mar 14 2013 by Caitlin Black, Harrow Observer

THE police breaking down the front door to carry out a raid on their family home was the first alarming moment one mother knew her teenage son had got into trouble.

Barbara Miller is chairwoman of Mother’s Against Gangs, a voluntary group that was formed last year by hard-working mums, with the support of the police, to help steer youngsters away from crime and gang culture.

Like Barbara, many of those involved in the group have had personal experiences with family members involved in crime – mostly sons and brothers – and are using these experiences and collective knowledge to support families in detecting the early signs, dealing with the police, courts and other agencies, and in getting their loved ones back on the right track.

Barbara said: “As a mother of four children, I have had experiences which have been very upsetting and traumatic. I have had two forced entries into my house by the police – it’s not very nice, people in your neighbourhood seeing the police turn up like that.

“We hope to help mothers like myself. We are working with the police and the youth offending team to help the mothers of children who are in trouble, or are causing trouble.”

The volunteers have different backgrounds, creeds and communities but one shared aim – to create a safe and peaceful environment in which there is understanding, respect and harmony between the mothers of different cultures so that children do not become rivals.

Barbara added: “Some mums know that their children are getting into trouble on the streets and some don’t. The ones that don’t know, we try and help and give as much advice as possible. It is more of a shock for them when the police raid their homes because they do not realise that their children have been trouble.

“The ones that do know about their children being trouble, we try and advise them on how to restore authority and help them as much as we can.

“We have a much calmer attitude to the mothers and their children. We try not to be threatening and often there is a language barrier between families and the police, so we use our volunteers, executives and associates who speak different languages to help them calm down and help them to realise we are here to help.”

Mothers Against Gangs was formed in August last year and the committee meets fortnightly at the Wealdstone Youth Centre in High Street, Wealdstone.

The volunteers were keen to stress that the group was not set up in reaction to a stabbing or to a rise in gang crime in the borough – which police say is statistically one of the safest boroughs in London – but instead to work in a preventative way to help young people at risk.

Despite being in its infancy, the charity has several success stories already, such as one youth who was constantly receiving warnings from the police for crimes until Mothers Against Gangs stepped in and he joined up to the police cadets.

Another 14-year-old was involved in serious crime, including robbery, but after an intervention, it looks like he is turning his back on his old ways and has taken up sporting activities.

Vice chairwoman Hana Ali, a mother of two young children, became involved out of concern for her two brothers.

She said: “I feel passionately about taking part in Mothers Against Gangs because of my past experiences of growing up with my brothers who were getting involved in trouble. We had the police come to our house a lot for either one of my brothers. This made my mother feel completely helpless and vulnerable. It was a difficult and stressful situation.”

Hana speaks Somali which has proved very useful for communicating with the Somali community, such as when she helped a 14-year-old boy who was arrested in relation to theft and drugs offences.

She said he was not taking the police warnings seriously and had not informed his parents about the arrest, but would instead take a friend to the police station as an ‘appropriate adult’. Hana managed to track down his mother who said she had no idea her son in trouble.

Hana said: “We eventually helped her to go to the police meetings with her son and to enforce some authority. They are doing much better now.

“I explained to the mum that I didn’t want her to go through what I had to go through, with the police coming over to your house when you are completely oblivious to what is happening. It’s scary and not very nice.”

Harrow Association of Somali Voluntary Organisation (HASVO) youth worker, Yusuf Yusuf works very closely with Mothers Against Gangs.

He said: “It is really important to gain that trust from the parent. Often these youths are very young and they really respect their parents, so if you can work with both, then you are more likely to get a result.

“Sometimes it’s tough for youths, especially ones who cannot speak very good English. They get excluded from school and eventually kicked out, then they are on the streets with nothing to do. It goes downhill from there.”

Harrow Police has been supporting the group, including former borough commander Dal Babu who has remained involved since retiring, and the police often alert the group to a family who may need help as they may offer a softer approach to a sensitive subject.

PC Sonia Ong from the Youth Offending Team has also been working in partnership with the charity and she told the Observer: “Sometimes the youth might have a bad opinion of the police, they don’t always trust us or respect us.

“Working with their mothers is a great way of getting through to them and getting them to learn respect. And mums will trust a couple of mothers who have been in similar situations knocking at their front door rather than a group of uniformed police officers.”

Barbara said: “As parents ourselves, we believe if you can detect the signs early you may be able to prevent things from getting out of control. We wish to reassure the parent or young person.

“We know how traumatic the experience of attending police stations and courts can be for the whole family and how daunting it is because most people don’t know how the legal process works or what to expect. These can sometimes drag on for months and months and have a knock-on effect with schools, jobs, relationships, family and health.

“But we will work together for a positive present, and will seek to achieve a fulfilled future.”

n To find out more information on Mothers Against Gangs (MAG) see or call 07848 998 818.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Pulling gang members back from the brink

By Kurt BarlingSpecial correspondent, BBC London

The murder of Kwame Ofosu-Asare was an example of gang violence and mistaken identity
Continue reading the main story
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'Move gang members' from home turfWatch

Postcode gang wars have become a disturbing feature of the lives of many young people in London.

In the wake of the 2011 riots, a Home Office team has been conducting a review of what works best across London's 18 gang hotspot boroughs to stem the violence.

Over the past decade, both victims and perpetrators have become steadily younger.

Among them is Kenny Imafadon, who was on remand for murder until Christmas 2011.

The judge in Kenny Imafadon's trial ruled he should be acquitted and he was released - but not before having taken a long hard look at the mess his life was in.

Two of his friends were sentenced to 26 and 30 years respectively.
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What isn't working is taking young people and putting them in what are effectively jails - and just leaving them there to stew”Professor John Pitts

He said: "That really changed my outlook on life - that could easily have been me.

"I'd had more than enough time thinking in Feltham [Young Offender's Institution] to be honest and that helped me reassess my life."

Southwark Council's gang intervention team relocated him away from south London and commissioned him to write a report on the reasons young people like him get involved with gangs.

It was the start of his rehabilitation.

The Kenny Report is an unusual diversion tactic, but it secured a scholarship for him to pursue an undergraduate degree in law at a London university.

Professor John Pitts, who is supporting Kenny's reintegration into non-gang life, says the review recognises there needs to be a shift away from a focus on enforcement.

It is increasingly seen as a blunt instrument for all but the most dangerous individuals.'Intervening early'

Professor Pitts said: "What isn't working is taking young people and putting them in what are effectively jails - and just leaving them there to stew.

"We don't have enough people and projects who are intervening early."

The fear many victims or bystanders experience means community groups believe that a lot of the violence is under-reported.
Professor John Pitts says there needs to be a move away from enforcement

So although official statistics suggest a deep in crime levels this masks an underlying problem of a steady increase in the use of violence.

The year-long review has confirmed this impression across most of the worst affected boroughs.

It has also challenged the practice of using early introduction into the criminal justice system as an effective deterrent.

Using the work spearheaded by among others Southwark Council's Gang Intervention Unit, practice is moving in the direction of early diversion of those young people on the periphery of gang life.

Southwark has gone a step further and now voluntarily moves gang members who want to ditch the gang lifestyle away from their home turf.

Jonathon Toy, of Southwark Council, said: "We do know what the answers are.

"If you do home visits and you link people into services and provide mentoring you can move people on.
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We've got a long way to go”Charlie AlcockClinical psychologist

"We can make a massive difference - it's an issue for everybody."

Some unexpected revelations have also come from the review.

Charlie Alcock is a clinical psychologist who used to work in the NHS.

She has fought a lone battle to introduce a practice she calls street therapy.

The review has placed a greater emphasis on using this type of experience to produce a more joined up approach from different services to tackle the escalating gang problem.

Ms Alcock said: "We've recognised this is a mental health need and needs to be treated as such.

"But we've got a long way to go."

It is not a question of doing away with enforcement - dangerous people still end up in jail.Funding continued

But exit from prison is also an important point of intervention.

The Home Office has decided that the review has led to a greater understanding of what works and street level - and how gang intervention work can only be improved by making sure different departments all speak from the same page to extricate gang members from criminal behaviours.

Although the programme was due to have its funding stopped last week, it is now going to run until 2014.

Friday, 8 March 2013

A new Brixton film tackling gang culture from a female perspective launches its Crowdfunding campaign

A new Brixton film tackling gang culture from a female perspective launches its Crowdfunding campaign

A new film set in Brixton and tackling gang culture from a female perspective has kicked off its Crowdfunding campaign with nearly £10,000 raised after just three days.

Set in Brixton and inspired by true events, Honeytrap is an urban drama told from a girl’s point of view. It will explore the pressures on girls who find themselves involved in gang culture, and will use an amalgamation of real-life stories with very serious consequences. Filming will begin in August.

Writer and director Rebecca Johnson (who was named one of Screen International’s ‘Stars of Tomorrow’ in 2009) has been making films looking at aspects of life in Brixton for the last ten years through her company Fierce Productions.

The music will be scored by Skwilla (Top Girl), MC Killa P (former member of Roll Deep) and Russo (video for ‘I Know’ below) who all hail from Brixton.
Fierce Productions runs a unique training and mentoring programme during each of its projects, enabling young people to work alongside professional film crew, with trainees going on to secure paid employment in the film industry, roles in BBC dramas and to make their own films.
Meet the young FIERCE team! from Fierce Productions on Vimeo.

They have been awarded a £20,000 grant towards the training and mentoring programme from South London trust the Walcot Foundation, ensuring young people from Brixton have the opportunity to get involved.

Find out more about the film here. Follow the film on Twitter @honeytrapfilm & find it on Facebook.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Former gang member teaches first aid to youngsters in Wapping

London24 (East London Advertiser)

Chloe Mayer Monday, March 4, 2013

A former gang member has joined forces with the parents of two murdered teenagers to teach youngsters about the horrors of violent crime while showing them life-saving first aid skills.

Former street thug Fola Odebunmi, who used to arm himself with a samurai sword or baseball bat but has since turned his life around, has been working with pupils at St Paul’s Primary School in Wapping.

The 10 and 11-year-olds were taught basic first aid skills needed to deal with a medical emergency after hearing harrowing accounts from bereaved parents about how senseless street violence destroys lives.

The initiative, which is set to visit other schools across London, is being run by the St John Ambulance, as part of the charity’s Respect, Inspire, Support, and Empower (RISE) project, which works with deprived young people.

It has the backing of Margaret and Barry Mizen, whose son Jimmy was murdered a day after his 16th birthday in Lee Green in 2008, and Grace Idowu whose 14-year-old son David died after being stabbed in Southwark in 2008.

Margaret, Barry, and Grace are taking it in turns to visit schools to talk about the suffering caused by youth violence, while Fola – now a RISE youth development officer - urges the children to shun violence in favour of learning valuable life skills.

Pupils at the school in Wellclose Square learned how to put an unconscious person in the recovery position and the best way to treat severe bleeding in a series of hands-on training sessions.

St John Ambulance’s social inclusion manager, Ruth Jalloh, said: “Our message at St John Ambulance is that everyone can be the difference between a life lost and a life saved.

“By reaching these children at such a young age we hope to prevent them from becoming involved in violent crime.

“And by teaching them first aid skills, we’re giving them the ability and confidence to save a life when faced with a serious emergency.”

Friday, 1 March 2013

Cash boost for project to defeat gang culture in croydon

Croydon Advertiser
March 1, 2013

A Major cash injection has been announced to boost the fight against gang culture.

Croydon Voluntary Action (CVA) is setting up an online mentors' bank that will enable approved organisations to access a range of trained volunteer mentors more quickly.

The project is being funded thanks to a £35,000 handout from the Mayor of London's Office for Policing and Crime

CVA chief executive Steve Phaure said: "This service helps young people regain self-esteem and confidence, and to gain the skills needed to move onto the next stages in their lives."

Police and council chiefs have hailed the move, part of work to steer ex-young offenders and other youths away from crime.

Detective Chief Superintendent Simon Messinger, from Croydon Police, said: "Many young people have been successfully diverted from gang crime over the past year and mentoring is a key part of this.

"The additional funding will help organisations to do even more to support young people to lead a life away from gangs."

Cabinet member for community safety at Croydon Council, Simon Hoar, added: "The service will also be delivering accredited training to support the mentors themselves, but the main goal is to encourage young people's self-development."

Knife killing leads to rise in youths trying to leave gangs

The Evening Standard (London)
March 1, 2013 Friday
Justin Davenport

YOUTH workers say they are witnessing a rise in the number of young people trying to quit street gangs in Westminster after a teenager was stabbed to death.

They believe the knife death in January of 16-year-old Hani Abou El Kheir in a suspected gang attack on the Churchill Gardens estate has caused some teenagers to seek help.

Caroline Tredwell, from Westminster council's integrated gangs unit, said: "In situations like this we see more gang members expressing an interest in getting out.

"When you have a terrible event like this it brings home the seriousness of the consequences of what they are doing.

"But when they try to get out they suddenly learn it is not as easy as simply not seeing the gang any more. That's where we come in, offering practical help for the young people and their families, up to moving them out of the borough."

The unit's programme called Your Choice is aimed at young people transferring to secondary schools and claims to have helped drive down the rate of youth offending in the borough.

Since the scheme was launched the number of incidents of serious youth violence in Westminster has halved.

The unit is dealing with nine high-risk individuals, both in prison and in the community, while youth workers are helping 11 "gang affected" families.

Yesterday a police weapons sweep on the Churchill Gardens estate found a knife believed to have been hidden by gang members.

Councillor Heather Acton, a spokeswoman on youth issues, said: "It is a source of pride that Westminster is already doing some fantastic work to tackle serious youth violence and gangs through our Your Choice programme.

"However, just one youth becoming involved in violence, is one too many. So we can always do more."

She added: "As a passionate supporter of the young in our society, I believe we can encourage responsibility by helping them have a voice in their communities."