ONCE a gang member charged with carrying a machete, Kevin Martin is now a youth worker armed with an honours degree.
He is proof of successful policies in Glasgow, where London Mayor Sadiq Khan is looking for the key to solving his own city’s knife crime epidemic.
In 2005 the World Health Organisation named Glasgow the murder capital of Europe. This year the city had its lowest murder rate since records began in 1976.
Kevin, 24, embodies the turnaround. He said: “When I was 16 the gang was my life. I’d flunked school and notched up a number of police charges.
“Last year I graduated from Glasgow University with an honours degree in community development.
“I used to love fights and hate school. Now I run training programmes in schools to steer kids away from violence.”
Scotland’s Violence Reduction Unit, part of Police Scotland and Governmentfunded, was launched the year of those shameful WHO statistics. It treated knife crime as a contagious, often fatal disease.
The bad news for London – where fives lives have been claimed in six days, including Jay Hughes, 15, bringing the year’s toll to 119 – is there is no quick fix.
It took Glasgow 10 years and far more than traditional policing to find a
Tripled sentences for carrying knives Education workshops in schools
Provided mentors as positive role models remedy. Kevin was involved in one of the VRU’S particularly bold experiments, based on one tried in the US known as the Boston Ceasefire.
Some 200 gang members were encouraged to attend a meeting at Glasgow sheriff court. There, they found riot police and bereaved mums, and their names, photos and criminal records were on a screen.
Kevin said: “Youth workers told me and my mates to go to the sheriff court as we’d be offered the opportunity to go to South Africa during the World Cup.
“When we got there, gang members from rival areas also piled in. We were all making threatening hand gestures. Then our pictures flashed up on a big screen.
“Seeing the intelligence they had on us felt horrible. Police in riot gear said, ‘If you don’t put down your knives, we will smash down your door and arrest you’.
“Then mums whose sons had been killed in gang fights told their stories, which really got to us. Then we were told if we put down our knives they had job opportunities, and 11 places to go and work in shanty towns in South Africa.
“I got one of those places and life was never the same again.” VRU’S Will Linden said: “It was theatre but we knew it would work. We targeted some kids and rounded up busloads of others to go.
“Wagging a finger doesn’t work. There’s debate on whether we need hard
Recruited ex-offenders, surgeons and bereaved families to give talksOffered help to find a job/housing JAY HUGHES, 15 Killed near takeaway in Bellingham, London, on November 1. Kevin Martin aids youngsters Eddie Gorman helps victims