Children were given the chance to grill the Lewisham police borough commander last week on issues they are most concerned about during a special show with an online community radio station.
Reprezent, a not for profit organisation that trains young people in south London in online radio production and broadcasting, invited Chief Superintendent Jeremy Burton to discuss policing and crime issues in Lewisham.Mr Burton joined Tashomi Balfour, 21, the chair of Lewisham police’s advisory group, to meet with a panel of young residents.
There was a mixture of opinions regarding young people’s views on police in the borough. Mr Burton said: “It’s really important that police are approachable in Lewisham, because we are not only there to reduce crime and disorder, but to reassure and support young people.”
However, the panel refused to give the police an easy ride, claiming they found them “intimidating.”
Mr Burton continued to grapple with the young people’s concerns, including a reluctance to report crimes and the growing fear that Lewisham has become one of the main areas of crime.
“It’s about perception really”, he said. “The crime figures are coming down in some areas … but it’s not about crime figures for me. It’s about how young people feel.”
One young resident of Lewisham complained: “There are a lot of teens but not enough to keep them busy.” Mr Burton spoke about the diversionary work the police are involved in, such as sports initiatives MetTrack and Kicks and the Volunteer Police Cadet programme.
Stop and Search was a more pressing issue, as both vox pops and opinions from the panel suggested racism is involved.
Mr Burton explained: “Stop and search is based on intelligence, so if someone is stopped and searched it is done with that intelligence to hand. There shouldn’t be routine incidents of people being stopped and searched unlawfully.
“However, if as a young person you feel it hasn’t been done properly, I would encourage you to complain.”
One member of the panel said that although he personally had never had a bad experience, many of his friends had. “Whenever I see people getting stopped and searched, I can’t recollect one time when it didn’t involve a black person.”
However, another member of the panel countered this, suggesting it is due to the high proportion of black residents in Lewisham.
Mr Balfour summed up by saying: “It’s important for young people to not just sit back and complain about the system. To make a difference and change things you are not happy about, you have to get involved.”