Young people have to be central to resolving issues of gang culture and knife crime in Luton, a meeting in the town heard.
That was the message from a series of discussion groups set up during the workshop event at Chalk Hills Academy, according to Montell Neufville, managing director at Attentive Social Enterprise.
The meeting follows a sharp rise in the number of deaths and serious injuries to young men in the town. Azaan Kaleem, who was 18, was fatally stabbed in March and Waryam Hussain aged 20, died in May.
“When people tell you very important information and want to be involved, allow them the opportunity to be involved,” he said, speaking after the event.
“Show them how they can make a difference, show them how they can get supported, show them that you’re prepared to have a two-way communication between them and the key local authorities and the police.
“It was a common theme that young people have to be at the heart of any solution.”
The Youth Violence Community Workshop was organised by the Community Safety Partnership in Luton. It was attended by representatives of Bedfordshire Police, Luton Borough Council and various partnership and voluntary organisations, as well as local residents and community leaders.
“It’s really important to listen to all community members to ensure that they can tell the council and the CSP what their views and ideas are,” said Mr Neufville.
“I think that was missing from this strategy previously, but now we’ve heard from quite a lot of people, so that’s your starting point.
“Many of the organisations work directly with young people in music, sport, Art, football and martial arts.
“There’s a whole range of diverse projects which are currently put on with people who work in schools and after school clubs.
“We have a large number of organisations doing work with a variety of young people, but quite often they’re not engaged,” he added.
“People haven’t always been listened to, the solutions haven’t always been found, and the community groups and people who make a difference haven’t always been supported to make a difference.”
Luton Borough Council’s portfolio holder for stronger communities councillor Aslam Khan said it’s important everyone understands the key issues and helps form a partnership to tackle them.
“We have to accept there are vulnerable young people out there, who are susceptible to be influenced by local or outside gangs.
“There’s a role for everyone to play.
“It’s not just about police and local authorities.
“This gang and knife culture is affecting us all,” he added. “We have lost some precious life in this process and it’s about time we put a stop to this.
“The figures, and the loss of life and some horrific injures, clearly seem to show we haven’t really got to the bottom of this.”
He described “the resource of the community, organisations and the parents” as needing to be tapped into., as well as young people.
“I think they’re the key in this,” said councillor Khan, speaking after the workshop.
“Only they can understand the issues better and help provide the solutions.
“They’re probably the centre of all of this.”