Young people and community organisers came together to discuss gangs and weapon-related crime in Liverpool.
Around 70 people, children and adults together, met at the Liverpool Lighthouse in Anfield to put questions about knife, gun and gang crime to a panel including Merseyside Crime and Police Commissioner Jane Kennedy.
Ask Them is an initiative by Youth Connect, which has been organising community talk sessions and workshops as part of a two-year programme to raise children’s awareness of the dangers of getting involved in gangs or carrying weapons.
Youth Connect Senior Manager at Liverpool Lighthouse, Matthew Moreton, told JMU Journalism about the importance of getting youngsters involved.
He said: “It is vital because it’s a problem every community, from every age, suffers from. Young people need to be part of the solution but often their voices are ignored.
“They want to hear the truth from young people, and I’m too old to tell them the facts. They want to hear it from their peers and get engaged in the solutions themselves.”
Mamie Roberts, a Youth Connect Coordinator, explained: “It makes them think twice about carrying weapons. If they decide to take it out, in a split second their life can change and they have to realise that.”
The event was held as guns were once again at the forefront of news this week: with the announcement of a Community Centre opening in July in memory of murdered schoolboy Rhys Jones and the shooting that took place on Monday morning in Maghull.
Jane Kennedy expressed her frustration: “I feel angry that guns are being used. I want to make their whole environment less easy, I want to get in there and disrupt the gangs and prevent them from being able to function. There are positive things we can do to tackle gun, knife and gang crime, it doesn’t have to be a totally despairing scenario.”
One of the main issues arising from this session was to find a solution to help young people involved in gangs to find a way out of the trap.
Mrs Kennedy added: “One thing I did learn tonight is we don’t have a proper strategy to help young people who want to leave gangs, so I’m leaving tonight with a piece of work.”
Gaina Bell, who personally suffered over the loss of two of her children, was part of the panel with one of her sons, and said she hopes children will learn from it.
“I hope they’ve taken in what we’ve said to them and realise the heartache it can bring for the victim but also for the families and relatives of everyone. By going into crime, especially hard crime like knives, guns and drugs, they’ll either end up in prison or dead, and that’s a hard fact.
“So, we hope we’ve given them an insight of how it feels when you lose a child through crime. We know 100% how many lives we’ve changed doing the work we do and we just don’t want any mothers to go through what we’ve been through.”