In February, Andrez Harriot from The Liminality Group delivered a workshop on gangs and youth violence with the Spear coaching team. He was joined by Inspector Jack Rowlands, from Brixton Metropolitan police in South London, to share their insights from working with young people involved in violence and gangs in London.
The workshop explored what draws young people into gangs, ranging from a lack of a stable family background to a desire for social inclusion, and also examined the role mental health can play. Offering a young person in a gang hope and motivation via employment is one of the best means of giving them the tools needed to leave a life of crime and fully participate in society. The Spear coaches are now better equipped to understand the complex issues facing young people involved in, or on the edge of, gangs, and to know how to respond.
Andrez, a musician best known for being part of the band Damage, established a career in youth justice and has worked to resettle young people leaving prison to reduce and prevent reoffending, as well as offering support to young people involved in gangs and serious violence.
Divert is aimed at less serious offenders aged 18–25. While in custody they are met by police volunteers who talk to them about getting into training or employment. Spear is one scheme onto which young offenders can be referred to help them get out of crime and into a job. Inspector Rowlands spoke about the success of intervention and the need to change people’s lives at as early an age as possible.
On average, 15% of the young people on the Spear programme have a criminal record. Finding a job is a key factor in a young person not reoffending. Andrez said, “I am inspired by the Spear staff and the support they deliver to young people across London. Securing meaningful employment is key to transforming young lives; keep up the great work.”