A Croydon anti-knife crime charity is seeking funding to visit more local primary and secondary schools to steer students away from carrying knives.
Lives Not Knives’ bid for the £10,000 Aviva Community Fund comes after a recent spike in youth violence in the borough.
Aren Mali, 17, was stabbed to death in Croydon town centre at the end of last month. He was the second teenager in three months to be fatally stabbed in Croydon, after Jermaine Groupall, 15, lost his life in Thornton Heath in August.
Knife crime has doubled in Croydon in the past year. There are more knife crimes committed in Croydon than any other London borough, bar Haringey.
Lives Not Knives was set up in 2007 by Eliza Rebeiro, a then 14-year old Croydon resident who was friends with several victims of knife crime in the area. Since 2010 the charity has delivered roadshows in 150 Croydon schools to over 10,000 students per year to prevent teenagers from becoming involved in gangs and carrying weapons.
Monique Rebeiro, a consultant at Lives Not Knives and founder Eliza’s mother, said: “Lives Not Knives help with schools’ requests from Year Six. Year Six is a huge transition stage for young people. They are at their most vulnerable and need the skills to prevent them from getting involved in knife crime.”
The roadshows are led by a team of local youth workers who have experienced social exclusion, carried weapons and been involved in gangs.
If the charity are successful in their bid for the Aviva Community Fund, they plan to reach more young people in the local area through their roadshows. They also hope to train their youth workers in collaboration with the local authority, the police, local schools and other voluntary sector organisations.
“We have had huge demand for the Lives Not Knives roadshows from either schools directly or police and local authorities”, added Monique. “However our work has been totally scaled back over the last two years due to youth crime being underfunded, significant cuts in youth services and changes in school funding.”
“Youth crime should be at the top of our central and local government agenda, and a long-term strategy with long-term funding should have already been put in place.”
Like Lives Not Knives, Croydon Central MP Sarah Jones is calling for a coordinated strategy between central and local government and the voluntary sector to tackle the issue of youth violence in Croydon.
On the evening of the fatal stabbing of Aren Mali, she said: “Knife crime has become a public health crisis amongst our young… We need a ten-year, cross-government strategy tying together policing and justice with an equally important focus on early-stage interventions and community support, and recognition of new factors such as the influence of social media.”
To vote for Lives Not Knives to win the £10,000 Aviva Community Fund, visit their project page.
Voting closes in six days.