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Violent Crime Reduction Summit: East London representatives discuss proactive measures against county lines

PUBLISHED: 12:00 28 November 2019

Peguy Kato speaks about her own experience. Picture: Havering Council

Peguy Kato speaks about her own experience. Picture: Havering Council

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Organisations dedicated to making sure that young people feel safe gathered to discuss how they can better share their resources and intelligence across Havering, Redbridge and Barking and Dagenham.

Police at the scene of a murder in Clayhall. Picture: Ken MearsPolice at the scene of a murder in Clayhall. Picture: Ken Mears

Havering hosted the third tri-borough Violent Crime Reduction Summit at Atik in South Street, Romford on Wednesday, November 27.

Andrew Blake Herbert, chief executive officer at Havering Council, began the event by talking about the changing population of Havering.

He noted that despite being the London borough with the oldest population, it is also an area that has the fastest growing number of children.

"Here in Havering, the voice of our children is really important," said the chief executive.

The conference was held at Atik, Romford. Picture: Havering CouncilThe conference was held at Atik, Romford. Picture: Havering Council

"We need to make sure we are hearing and understanding what's going on in the borough."

Actors from Dagenham's Arc Theatre performed a play which showed a young girl's journey to being exploited by a gang.

Written by Clifford Oliver, Arc's resident writer, all f the dialogue used in the play had been said by real people who had been in similar situations.

In addition to the drama, attendees were shown a 20 minute film about county lines drug dealing.

Borough commander Stephen Clayman. Picture: Havering CouncilBorough commander Stephen Clayman. Picture: Havering Council

The film was a harrowing reminder of how young people involved in county lines are not just taking part in criminal activity, but are often victims of violence themselves.

The director of the film, Henry Blake, said that for him, the biggest issue concerning county lines is perception and how we as a community label those who are involved.

Megan Hatton, operations manager of the Rescue and Response project, shared vital data on the number of individuals that have been referred to the project from the tri-boroughs.

Havering identified 72 vulnerable individuals, Redbridge identified 184 and Barking and Dagenham identified 141 individuals.

Arc Theatre performed a short drama. Picture: Havering CouncilArc Theatre performed a short drama. Picture: Havering Council

The youngest in each borough was a 10-year-old in Redbridge, a 12-year-old in Barking and Dagenham and a 14-year-old in Havering.

For all the east London boroughs, Essex was the top county in terms of where young people were being sent to sell drugs.

Evesham, Worcestershire was the most common town for Havering young people to be sent, Basildon was most popular for Barking and Dagenham and Colchester for Redbridge.

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The government's children's commissioner Anne Longfield OBE shared a recently published report from her department which investigated what it means to be a child gang member in England.

She said: "One of these very tragic stories is about the experience of the young boy in Newham last year.

"Newham Council published a serious case review into a 14-year-old who spent years in temporary accommodation, had serious problems in schools leading to exclusion from school and was eventually groomed into a gang.

"He was shot at close range in a playground in east London.

"What is clear to me, is the system we have hasn't been able to keep up with the new context of violence that so many young people are facing."

Ms Longfield expressed a need for early intervention and called on the east London councils to challenge those who are committing serious violence in the tri-borough areas.

Peguy Kato from Harold Hill gave a heartfelt speech about the importance of communication in families.

Her son, Champion Ganda, died in the street in Forest Gate on May 9, 2013, after he was stabbed 11 times.

She said: "I had Champion when I was young. I was 19 and I didn't know how to communicate with him.

"He was kicked out of school but still my eyes weren't opening to see that things were changing.

"With the All Champions Charity we want to pass on this message to families.

"If you're not listening to your son, then someone else could be listening to him.

"Communication is so important."

The Met's East Area borough commander Stephen Clayman, the chief executive of the charity Street Doctors, a member from the Youth Parliament and councillors also gave speeches at the event.

Robert South, director of children's services, said: "Knife crime devastates lives, families and communities - that's why it's crucial to join a committed partnership to tackle it.

"Violent crime is not an issue that we face alone - it is a national problem that requires a joined-up solution that actively includes children and young people.

"These tri-borough summits provide a great opportunity to share expertise and knowledge with neighbouring authorities and organisations to work better together to end violent crime and protect young people."

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