A year after stabbing of 14-year-old, new scheme is launched to combat knife crime

The plaque in memory of Jermaine Cools Pic: Croydon Community Leaders

A year after 14-year-old Jermaine Cools was stabbed to death in the centre of Croydon, a new project has been launched to combat violent knife crime.  

The Croydon Lives project is a research initiative started by Croydon Community Leaders (CCL), an organisation which supports businesses, charities and non-profits dealing with social issues in the borough. They are working in collaboration with the families of victims of knife crime in order to identify “the common denominators” which lead to these incidents.  

Eastlondonlines spoke to Renee Lord-Lindsay, the managing director of CCL. She told ELL about the upcoming initiative following the unveiling of a memorial plaque which has been placed on London Road in the spot where Jermaine Cools was stabbed in November 2021.  

Lord-Lindsay said: “Once those flowers are cleaned away, once those posters are cleaned away, then that’s just it. But somebody still passed away here, somebody’s legacy stopped right there. And we have dozens of those spots in Croydon, like that. People, if they are not from this town or not from this area, would never know that a 14-year-old boy lost his life there.” 

She added: “There are so many spots in Croydon, within this area alone, that young people have died, and people will not remember them. And I wanted them to be remembered.” 

CCL will give a memorial plaque to each family who participates in the research. The plaques will each have a QR code which links to a memorial page for the individual, with picture galleries, tributes, and a Gofundme page for the family. 

However, Lord-Lindsay said that the plaque for Cools has been temporarily removed as the police were worried it would be stolen. It will be returned to the spot when it can be properly secured. 

She told ELL that posters and flowers which have been placed in memory of Cools “are vandalised constantly” and “his mum is still harassed when she goes to that spot.” 

Lord-Lindsay spoke about how her own family has been impacted by the consequences of knife crime. Her cousin Tyler was stabbed to death two years ago. 

She said: “It made it really hard for me to do certain work around knife crime…some outreach team things I can’t join, I no longer attend the vigils anymore of other young people who have died. It’s been really difficult for me, but I still wanted there to be some value for those families.” 

She recalled the feeling in Croydon just before the August riots in 2011, following the death of Mark Duggan, a black man who was killed by police in London.  

“I recognise that a big part of that came because there was a part of the community that was very frustrated. And they had no way to practically give back. So unfortunately, they lashed out on their local community and decided to riot instead.” 

CLL was formed to engage the local community in the work that charities are doing to fight social issues. She said: “There are great charities to help people with different social issues, mental health, knife crime, homelessness, but there’s too much duplication of those services, and not enough engagement with the existing structures.” 

In 2018, following Mayor Sadiq Khan’s decision to increase the police’s use of stop and search to combat knife crime, Lord-Lindsay identified that tensions between the black community and the police were heightening. 

She approached the police with the idea of launching outreach teams, which allowed members of the public to accompany them during a ride along, a walk about, or a stop and search. 

She said: “It’s a really powerful image to have because most of the people who come out with us are young black men.” 

“What I recognised is that [on social media] we do not see the context…what happened before the cameras went on. And we don’t get to see the closure. However, the outreach teams see that context and give it to the community.” 

However, Lord-Lindsay believes that more needs to be done to tackle the rising levels of knife crime in the borough.  

She said that Khan gave “just under a quarter of a million specifically to fund projects on London Road, which is known as the epicentre of Croydon’s crime…I am the only organisation that does work on that road, I’m the only organisation, and I don’t get funding.” 

You can find out more about Croydon Community Leaders, including the Croydon Lives project, here. 

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