Over 600 school children, teachers, police officers, and politicians formed a human chain across Brockley today to encourage co-operation between young people and local shopkeepers.
Children holding hands across Crofton Park chanted “Lewisham, Lewisham, Lewisham”, before being given a signal by a police helicopter taking pictures overhead. The chain of schoolchildren then read in unison: “These are our shops, these are our streets, this is a safe community, this is our community, this area is a City Safe Haven, this is our City Safe Haven.”
The event was orchestrated as part of the City Safe Haven scheme, founded in 2009. The campaign was set up by community action group ‘London Citizens’ together with the family of Jimmy Mizen, a 16 year old who was murdered at a bakery near his home in Lee.
Around 60 shops in Brockley and Catford are involved in the scheme, which encourages shopkeepers to make their premises a ‘safe haven’. This means they will shut their doors and contact police if a young person who feels threatened or is in trouble comes in.
So far there are 250 registered ‘safe havens’ across London, including Lewisham Town Hall and City Hall.
Simon Jones, teacher at Prendergast-Ladywell Fields College and organiser of the event described the human chain as: “a celebration of good people who want to stay good people and do good things.
“We are trying to create a relationship between kids and shopkeepers – we want them to see each other as friends. If people know each others names and spend time with each other, they are more likely to help each other.”
Some of the schools in attendance included Prendergast-Ladywell Fields College, St William of York Primary, Stillness Primary, Rushey Green Primary and Prendergast Vale. Attending the event was also Heidi Alexander, MP for Lewisham East, and Barry Mizen, father of murdered schoolboy Jimmy, who addressed the crowd.
Jay Patel, owner of the Budgens convenience store on Brockley Road in Crofton Park, has been involved with the City Safe Haven scheme since its inception. He said:
“I have had a shop here for nearly 30 years. From day one, all the children who come in after school at three o’clock get to know me. I’m on the fourth generation now.
“Often I would see the boys and girls fighting on the road, and have to step in and help them. I thought, if all the shops help each other, why can’t we do something about it?”
Patel added that he had seen a positive change in the area thanks to the City Safe Haven scheme. “I would say 5 per cent of the children in the area are a problem. It used to be 80 per cent. I don’t have to worry about kids in my shop now.”
“We are a part of a big local family; these are our children. When they grow up, I want them to be proud of Crofton Park and then come back and do something for the community.”