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View from Mare Street prayer walk: What leaders should do to combat youth crime epidemic across Hackney and London

PUBLISHED: 12:33 06 April 2018 | UPDATED: 17:28 06 April 2018

David Elwin from Victory Outreach Greater London Church (centre), who led followers on a prayer walk around Hackney on Thursday night. Picture: Polly Hancock

David Elwin from Victory Outreach Greater London Church (centre), who led followers on a prayer walk around Hackney on Thursday night. Picture: Polly Hancock

Archant

Loretta Thomas is a journalist who worked in social care for 25 years, dealing with crime, addiction and young people's prevention work.

Loretta Thomas.Loretta Thomas.

There is a real fear in the atmosphere from parents and young people across London for their safety and life expectancy.

Since the shooting and murder of Tanesha Melbourne in Tottenham on April 2, people are on high alert.

I have been having numerous conversations within the last 24 hours on social media and over the phone with people from inner city boroughs that want to see something done in their communities to address what they describe as lawless behaviour being carried out in their communities by mainly young men.

Some youths are now policing themselves, preferring not to go out in the search of a good time as that could end in death.

Victory Outreach Greater London Church called the prayer walk after the fatal stabbing of Israel Ogunsola this week. Picture: Polly HancockVictory Outreach Greater London Church called the prayer walk after the fatal stabbing of Israel Ogunsola this week. Picture: Polly Hancock

On Thursday evening in Mare Street there was a gathering of concerned adults from across London about the gun and knives that some young people are using to kill and injure each other.

There are questions like: “Where are the parents of these young people who are carrying out these brutal senseless murders and attacks, the extended families and the church leaders?”

They want to know: where is this village that should be helping steer these children into adults who grow up to make a positive contribution within society and their wider communities?

From the current buzz on social media and the chatter on the phone lines it sounds like citizens who are being affected by these attacks and fearful for their children’s lives are drawing no rays of hope for help from the government or local police.

History and budget cuts of 46 per cent in youth provision has shown society that young lives are not an area of priority to invest in. Brexit and Russia are clearly the areas of top priority and the order of most days.

In Britain today, it is has become the norm to see human beings making their homes on the street or in and around London Underground stations.

You only have to come out of the turnstiles at Charing Cross and see the rough sleepers’ community that greets you upon exit, or walk up Stroud Green Road by Finsbury Park station and see a parade of rough sleepers living under the bridge.

What is the answer to the real growing fear and silent hysteria manifesting in the homes and minds of our communities?

David Elwin from Victory Outreach Greater London Church speaks in front of Hackney Town Hall and leads prayers for all the teenage gangs whos names he read out by the light of mobile phones after the walk. Picture: Polly HancockDavid Elwin from Victory Outreach Greater London Church speaks in front of Hackney Town Hall and leads prayers for all the teenage gangs whos names he read out by the light of mobile phones after the walk. Picture: Polly Hancock

I speak on this as a professional with 25 years’ experience working in the field of social care, with drug addiction behaviour, the criminal justice system and knife prevention with young people.

The government, mayor’s office, local authorities and funding commissioners need to start liaising with and providing money to the frontline services who are supporting young people involved in gangs or who are undertaking positive activities but need financial assistance and mentoring.

These agencies need to be involved in select committee discussions and steering groups to effect change. No amount of degrees or academia is going to solve this problem – that’s been proven. We are in crisis mode now.

This is the crucial part. The young people caught up in these cycles of offending and gangs will require therapeutic support that will involve talk therapy, because – believe it or not – social conditioning has taken place, and we should not be waiting for them to go to prison as that alone is not going to change mindsets.

The support and mentoring needs to be offered within the community, and to the parents also who I am sure are at their wits’ end or maybe even aware of their children’s behaviour.

I am aware that this is presenting as mainly black on black crimes, but it affects all ethnicities within society. Gentrification is not just about living off the profits of an area or the good times it provides: it is also about becoming involved in the community that you invest in and that is also profiting you.

Does it even matter which group of people is mainly impacted by this current escalation of terror when the future of Great Britain is being killed off in the streets?

The current youth killings should be a concern for every citizen of this nation.

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