Hackney Downs police get kids to talk about crime in 'boxercise' session at King's Hall Leisure Centre
PUBLISHED: 18:06 31 May 2019 | UPDATED: 18:21 31 May 2019
Police officers in full uniform took part in a sweltering boxercise session to get young people at King's Hall Leisure Centre talking about crime.
Working with trainers at the Lower Clapton gym, run by Better, the Hackney Downs Safer Neighbourhoods Team invited children under 15 to get active - and then answered questions on the work they do.
Officers like Pc Dillon Patel want to build bridges with young people in the area to improve communication and understanding of the law.
He told the Gazette: "With Hackney you've got murders that have been committed by teenagers and that's the age group that we're looking to target, maybe just a bit younger.
"[We] just talk to them about police and [say]: 'Don't be afraid to approach us. We're not here just to catch the bad guys.'
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"That is our role and that is what we do, but we're also here for the public as well and we're here to talk to people for their concerns and just for reassurance."
Officers told the eight youngsters in the leisure centre audience about knife crime, the impact it is having on the communities they live and serve in, and what happens when someone is caught with a knife on them.
Recent stabbings in Hackney, like the killing of Joshua White last month, are a stark reminder of the consequences of carrying knives. Carrying an offensive weapon is punishable by up to four years in prison even if it is not used. Two teenagers, 16 and 18, have been charged with Joshua's murder.
Asked what local issues they were concerned about, the children cited homelessness, drugs, prank calls and vandalism. Discussing knife crime, one said he was "scared it will happen to me".
Despite their concerns much of the conversation centered on what the officers were wearing.
The children asked why they carried handcuffs, batons and wore bulletproof vests - and why police could drive through red lights.
The Safer Neighbourhoods Team plans to roll out more initiatives like this so young people can interact with police in a positive environment, which they hope will help prevent crime.