THE MIR­ROR

Daily Mirror (Northern Ireland) - - NEWS - BY JULIE MCCAF­FREY

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

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