Stand United: Stoke Newington community group set up by friends of Tashaûn Aird's family holds first anti-knife crime meeting
PUBLISHED: 11:03 30 July 2019 | UPDATED: 11:14 30 July 2019
A Stoke Newington community group set up in the wake of Tashaûn Aird's fatal stabbing has held its first panel on how to tackle knife crime.
Its founder Mercinth Anderson knows the family of the schoolboy, who was killed in Somerford Grove on May 1. Five people have been arrested in connection with his death, but there have been no charges.
Mercinth and the eight family members behind Stand United want to see young people attending the meetings as community leaders discuss the problem and its possible solutions. The first session, at Clapton's Pedro Club on July 14, included the Pedro Club's James Cook MBE; Janette Collins of The Crib youth club; youth worker Twilight Bey - who helped broker peace talks between gangs in Los Angeles in the 1980s and 1990s - and Hackney Council's crime chief Cllr Caroline Selman.
Lara Thomas, Mercinth's niece, told the Gazette: "The death of Tashaûn Aird initiated the idea of doing something about it as my aunt was close with the family of the victim. And we decided get people closer together to help.
"For our first meeting we had a good turnout of 40 people. Our main attraction was the big banner we had outside the Pedro Club which encouraged people to join. The majority of the people who attended had their say on the situation."
But she added: "The project's main aim is to target the youth to attend the meetings, as it encourages them to avoid gangs and knife crimes. Not enough young people attended - only two young ladies came to the meeting, which is something we need to work on as they are the main people we want to attract.
"We need to find ways to reach out to parents of the children and finding ways to ask for help when it's needed. Saving one life is better than none."
Hackney councillor and the cabinet's crime chief Cllr Caroline Selman was among those in attendance.
She told the Gazette afterwards: "Hackney Council is committed to tackling all forms of violent crime, including knife crime, by taking a public health approach that treats violent crime as a preventable public health issue and recognises the importance of working in partnership with the community.
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"Tackling violence is a long standing priority for the council and our partners in the police, voluntary sector and youth organisations - reflecting the major impact that violence can have on the community as a whole, not least our young people, who have the right to grow up feeling safe.
"We were the first council in the UK to set up a co-located integrated gangs unit (IGU), which brings together staff from the council, police, third-sector organisations and government agencies who work to tackle the factors which draw people into a path of violent crime, as well as working directly with people who are currently involved in violent crime to convince them that there are other opportunities out there.
"The IGU plays a crucial role in steering people away from serious violence, and that is why in our manifesto we have pledged to continue to give the IGU the support it needs to continue its incredible work.
"However, as recent tragic loss of life in this borough has shown, it is clear more than ever that we need to work together to put an end to violence on our streets.
"Last year we held a meeting with frontline workers, community leaders and partners. This highlighted the importance of working hand-in-hand with the community and hearing directly from young people's experiences in response to issues like knife crime, putting young people at the heart of shaping the things that affect their lives.
"To reflect this, we have increased the outreach work we do in local communities, and expanded the community engagement work of the Integrated Gangs Unit with greater links with schools, community organisations and the wider community.
"We're transforming how we do social care, through contextual safeguarding which looks beyond the family home, and we are continuing to invest in front line voluntary sector services.
"Groups such as Stand United are playing a critical role in working within their communities to address knife crime and the impact it has on the community as a whole, and it is inspiring to see people work to change their communities for the better and to help open up conversations about knife crime and how it can be overcome.
"However, the circumstances that led to the group's conception are heartbreaking, and hone the importance of addressing the factors which lead to young people becoming involved in violent crime, which is what the council and Community Safety Partnership are working to achieve.
"It is important to remember that many factors play into the reason why someone decides to pick up a knife, whether that's social, employment or educational factors, mental health problems, fear, or something else - it is not something that happens overnight. Working together is key, through bringing together the council, youth services, police, health, community groups, residents, and other parties and individuals we can break down the barriers that stop people reaching out for help and advice, and build trust throughout the community."
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