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Youth workers to visit teenagers at takeaways in bid to cut violence

'It’s reaching them where they congregate instead of asking them to come to us'

26 September, 2019 — By Samantha Booth

Trisha Richards, Sarah Hoyle, and Andrew Sanalitro, of Highgate Newtown Community Centre

THREE youth centres are uniting to launch a pilot scheme where workers will visit young people near takeaways and shops in a bid to tackle violence in Camden.

The manager of the centres in Camden Town, Kentish Town and Highgate say they have seen dwindling numbers of young people.

Amid the recent escalation in violence, they are going to try and directly reach them on the streets instead.

Sarah Hoyle, manager at Kentish Town Community Centre, said the idea was not “rocket science”. “We are going to move away from the traditional youth centre model and are going to be working with small shopkeepers where young people hang around so we can speak to young people in their environments,” she said.

The idea of deploying “youth connectors” and collaborating with shopkeepers was developed by Trisha Richards, chief executive officer at Castlehaven Community Association.

She said: “We need to work with what we’ve got to make sure those kids who are potentially on the cusp of joining a gang don’t get there. I wouldn’t want to be a young male at the moment. Generally when you read papers and stuff like that there’s been lots of crimes and issues happening in front of chicken shops and cornershop areas. Those particular people that work in them have got a lot of information and they know a lot of people as they see these people day in, day out.”

She added: “It’s cheap food and stuff they like eating. And that’s where they might meet their friends. It’s reaching them where they congregate instead of asking them to come to us.”

Ms Hoyle said: “If you have money you have choice, but we are not talking about kids who go to ballet or tap five times a week, we are talking about young people who may not have a lot of money.”

Some of the shops they would be going to are chicken shops where they say some of the young people congregate near.

The Home Office announced earlier this year a controversial project to put anti-knife crime messages within chicken boxes. Some critics said the money could have been used on mentors or community investment.

Ms Hoyle said of that initiative: “It’s crazy because it’s a one-way street, it’s not a conversation. “We need to have a conversation, you can’t listen to someone through a poster.”

After six months, the team will review whether the work – due to start next month – has been effective.

Ms Richards said: “It’s a test and learn and we are trying our best to do something different.”

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