Sixty young people from Tower Hamlets questioned a panel of high-level police, community and government leaders at a Young People’s Question Time on subjects ranging from violent crime, youth services and safety risks to Stop and Search policies.
The panel comprised Mayor John Biggs alongside Labour Councillor Danny Hassell and two leading officials from Tower Hamlets Council: Ann Corbett, the Tower Hamlets council’s director for community safety, and Denise Radley, corporate director for adult health and community. They were joined by Metropolitan Police Chief Superintendent Sue Williams and the current Young Mayor Fahimul Islam.
A live vote kicked off the discussion at the Spotlight youth centre in Poplar and addressed questions on where residents feel safe in the borough, how to promote ambition and opportunities for young people and how accessible they find the Young Mayor and youth council.
Young people’s safety in the borough has received a lot of attention. As they questioned the legitimacy of Stop and Search, Williams explained: “Stop and Search is a really valuable tool for police officers prevent the crime. But you can’t just go and ask someone who might look like a suspect. You have to have reasonable grounds.”
“Now we are working with a group in Hackney and doing some additional training locally with our officers. And we got another research project going on at the moment around Stop and Search. It’s truly important for officers to be properly and respectfully when they speak to young people”
The council said London has invested a huge amount of money in knife crime and violence. “The knife can not make you feel safer” said Mayor Biggs.
According to the investigation of Metropolitan Police, the stabbing is always relative to the retaliation if there is a gang involved.
“What our primary function is enforcement, investigation and prevention. We will look to the parents to help the police investigation if the victim is under 18 years old,” said Williams.
The discussion continued with challenging questions around mental health, teenager opportunities and the action plan for tackling Islamaphobia.
On young people’s contribution to the borough, Hassell said: “Tower Hamlets is a very young borough, but I don’t think lots of our services are particularly well designed to suit the need of young people.”
“So we need you to keep the pressure on politicians and leaders, to shape the services we have in our borough.”
The panel then shared their personal experience to explain how teenager opportunities changed today compared with several years ago.
Mayor Biggs said: “I think young people have always been the case but it is different now. Particularly with mobile phones and the internet, people under a lot of pressure about what you should have, what you should look like, and how people would see you. This is a bit different from when I was growing up.”
The audience also raised issues about LGBTQ+ education needs. The council said it was working closely with parents and school representatives to tackle some tricky issues and support sexual relationship education. They also collaborated with an LGBT support organisation named ELOP to offer a range of young people’s services across the borough.