Operation Trident, the Metropolitan Police unit dealing with gun crime in black communities, is considering plans to visit primary schools in Lewisham for the first time. The visits would be part of a London-wide drive to warn children as young as ten about the dangers of gun and knife crime.
Detective Inspector Kieran Power from the six-strong community engagement team behind the idea said the views “entrenched” in the ten- and eleven-year-olds they had encountered so far were disquieting.
Of those asked, one in three year six pupils at a school in Walthamstow thought it acceptable to carry a knife. “We were struck by the fact that young children had these views,” said Mr Power, adding his concerns that the attitudes found in these pupils might be a “snapshot” of a much broader problem across London.
If given the go-ahead by senior officers at Scotland Yard, the pilot would be rolled out in what Mr Power called “Trident areas”. These include Lewisham, where there have been 27 shootings so far this year, more than three times greater than last year’s total.
Kathy Duggan, a teacher at Marvels Lane Primary School in Grove Park, said: “Anything that brings into focus underlying violence is a bonus as far as I’m concerned. Because I don’t know what to do about it.”
She added: “It would not surprise me in the least if you checked older primary school children’s bags and found that a significant number carry weapons.
“Even if that is not the case, we know many children are going home where there is a culture of violence.”
Sandra Alexis, a rehabilitation support worker whose ten-year-old son Gregory attends St. Augustine’s in Bellingham, said: “Gun crime is a worry, because it’s a reality. But I’ve never really thought about addressing it so early.
“It worries me when I compare it to my childhood, but as parents we can’t get scared. If my child has to be taught about gun and knife crime, then so be it.”
Officers from Trident already visit secondary schools, delivering a presentation called Decisions and Consequences, which explains the work of Trident and the impact of serious weapons.
The talk would be tailored to suit a younger audience, and Mr Power insists the intention is not to frighten children but to help them make decisions in a positive way.
“We tell them how innocent young people can inadvertently become involved in bad situations. How without knowing it they can get caught up in a stabbing or a shooting,” he said.
Len Duvall, London Assembly Member for Greenwich and Lewisham, supports the new initiative. “Anything that prevents harm to others, including loss of life, has got to be welcomed,” he said. “But clearly it’s got to be done sensitively, without criminalising our young people.”
Over the last five years the number of teenaged victims of shootings has risen steadily. In 2008, thirty teenagers were murdered in London.