The impetus behind the event came after 1,600 violent crimes were reported in Croydon up to September this year, with a number of attacks and murders taking place close to Selhurst Park. Reported knife crime in London has increased by 60% over the last four years and by June, 2021 saw more teenagers dying of a stab wound than all of 2020.
The Foundation work tirelessly across the community to help combat youth violence in a number of ways, through programmes such as Divert, an intervention scheme with young adults in custody, and Breaking the Cycle, a 12-week mentoring programme.
Their recent event at Selhurst Park saw figures from the Metropolitan Police and Croydon’s Youth Engagement team meet with young south Londoners referred to the Foundation by their school, a youth offending scheme or by a court order.
These young adults were first taken on a stadium tour, before speaking with police staff and finally hearing from a guest who was released from prison after 14 years this summer.
This talk drew upon the experience of being incarcerated aged 18, which those present listened to intently.
The session explained the risks of carrying a weapon and its consequences, what constitutes an offensive weapon, how to negotiate in a potentially violent situation rather than resorting to violence and the ripple effect of knife crime.
Chase Hill is the Foundation’s Targeted Intervention Manager. He works with young people in the community, and led the organisation of the recent Selhurst workshop. He describes the challenges faced by young people in Croydon as unique to any other borough, citing the difference in wealth and insular approach of some residents as key issues.
“It’s about providing young people with opportunity, first and foremost,” he said. “There are a lot of people who don’t have the opportunity through various things that are no fault of their own. It’s about giving them an opportunity and a safe space to share their thoughts and feelings and what’s going on in their life, and for them to sit down and create goals.
“Without programmes like this, sometimes these young people aren’t listened to. When you’ve got the temptations – Croydon’s a difficult area – of what’s going on, it’s very easy to join a gang, pick up a knife and commit crime. What we’re trying to do is help these young people fulfil their potential with a positive route.”