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