Join the Lambeth Walk and make our streets safe
by Joshua Neicho
Thousands of Lambeth residents will rally in September to show the borough’s determination to tackle youth violence and its causes.
In response to a London-wide upsurge in violent crime which has seen more than 80 murder investigations so far this year, the Lambeth Walk will set out at 11am on Sunday 23rd September from Kennington Park for Rush Common on Brixton Hill. It is almost exactly 10 years after the People’s March Against Knife Crime, following the murder of 16 year old Ben Kinsella which brought up to 40,000 people out onto the streets.
The organisation of this year’s event unites Lambeth-based public servants, youth workers and campaigners passionate at addressing the root causes of street violence through a holistic public health model.
Among these are Lambeth Safer Neighbourhood Board programme manager Alastair Reid, who previously headed up the Met’s youth strategy; Winston Goode, founder and MD of training and charity for ex-young offenders, Juvenis; Lee Deema, manager of the St Matthew’s Football project; Cllr Mahamed Hashi of Young Lambeth Co-operative; and King’s College Hospital trauma surgeon Duncan Bew. Lambeth Life is giving its full support.
Leading the crowd will be DJ Asher Senator, former creative partner of Smiley Culture, with the youth music charity CODE 7 which he has run since 1996.
Organiser Gary Trowsdale of the Spirit of London Awards, former head of the Damilola Taylor Trust and a long-time Brixton resident, said there would be a “carnival type atmosphere”.
Frustrated by the fragmented nature of the youth sector, he told Lambeth Life, “my big belief is to bring individual organisations around the table and get them bound into the same mindset. It’s about breaking the mould of competition [between charities]”.
“Youth violence isn’t about guns and knives – it’s about inequality”, he added.
Trowsdale advises the Youth Violence Commission, which this month recommended London adopted the public health model to tackling violent crime, looking beyond police tactics to a co-ordinated response from education, mental health, housing and social services and community groups. The model is credited with more than halving the murder rate in Glasgow. In March, Lambeth committed itself to piloting it as part of its 10 year youth violence strategy.
“The council has shown brave leadership by stating what’s been done clearly hasn’t been working well enough” said Winston Goode. “I’d like to see us all take a leap of faith to look at the real social causes of crime and violence”.
In June, Lambeth council leader Lib Peck, who is Deputy Chair and executive member for crime and public protecton at London Councils, told the Mayor’s Knife Crime Summit that “we must… work cross-London and cross- party to end this scourge. There is no monopoly of good ideas”.
“The public health approach is about a philosophy for a movement – not an off the shelf template to be cherry-picked from” said Alastair Reid, who served for 30 years as a Met police officer, including 22 years community policing in Lambeth. “The Lambeth Walk is all about people being involved, sharing the messages of hope that the public health approach can really make a difference”, he added.
A young offender strategy started in Brixton police custody in 2015 is being adopted across London. Divert is a Met Police programme, delivered by the New Era Foundation and partnering organisations including Network Rail and M&S, to move 18-25 year olds out of criminality into education, employment or training.
Among the nearly 200 youngsters it has engaged with, reoffending rates have dropped to 8%: 25% less than the London average. Now also in Tower Hamlets and Hackney, it is due to extend to six custody sites across London within six months. It has support from the Home Office and the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime, and been cited approvingly by think-tanks including the Criminal Justice Alliance and the Social Justice Foundation.
The officer behind Divert, Inspector Jack Rowlands, said he had “slowly but surely” got sceptical colleagues on board, convincing them it was a way of “opening people’s minds”.
“When someone knocks on the cell door and says they will change your life, it’s very powerful” he said. “I’m confident enough to say it’s part of the solution”.
Oasis Youth Support, an umbrella of services provided by Oasis Hub Waterloo in partnership with St Thomas’s Hospital, faces an uncertain future after its funding is due to run out in October.
Set up in 2010, it helps 12-20 year olds who turn up in A&E having experienced some form of violence, on the basis that victims should not just be treated medically but also to reduce the risk of them returning to A&E in future. The need is growing, says Oasis Youth Trust head of youth services, Stuart Thomson, with referrals up 16% on last year, when 82 young people were supported. Oasis Youth Support is currently in dialogue with the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime and others regarding the future funding and sustainability of the service.
The Youth Violence Commission Interim report has asked for an overhaul of funding arrangements to address youth violence.