Hackney youth and the borough’s “top cop” declare Clapton a “safe zone.”

Young people reclaimed the streets of Hackney last week, with the launch of the borough’s first “safe” zone in Clapton.

Hackney Police Borough Commander Chief Superintendent Steve Bending came along to the event on Monday to pledge his support for the CitySafe crime-prevention and peace-building initiative.

Over the last six months pupils from surrounding schools have been on regular outings to Upper Clapton Road to sign up businesses as CitySafe havens with the help of London Citizens’ senior community organizer Sebastien Chapleau.

Shopkeepers pledge to report all crime and antisocial behaviour to the police, and to spend time each week building relationships with their neighbours.

They also display a sticker prominently in their shop window, so young people who may feel unsafe know they can come in for refuge.

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Police joined young people to donate flowers to the shopkeepers thanking them for their support and demonstrating the “strong spirit of neighbourliness” which is at the heart of the CitySafe campaign.

Mr Bending said the campaign was an excellent example of young people taking practical action: “Through building bridges with the business community and creating “Safe Havens,” not only does this initiative enhance safety for our young people, it also demonstrates how our young people are pivotal in bringing communities together to make Hackney a safer place to study and live in,” he said.

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London Citizens, the largest alliance of community organizations in the UK, began the Londonwide initiative three years ago after the senseless murder of Jimmy Mizen in a Lewisham bakery.

Over 200 pupils are signed up in Hackney and they are now building relationships with shopkeepers in Homerton, Hackney Central and Stamford Hill.

“The police and council can’t do it on their own,” said Mr Chapeleau who was ironically out on the streets the night the riots broke out in August.

“We have the resources to build safety on our streets, and my job is to train people to talk to each other, as opposed to a top down,” he added.

“The riots took place because there’s a massive gap between young people and officials, and politics - as in community involvement - is what can fill up that gap.”

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