The Evening Standard (London)
March 1, 2013 Friday
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."