On 26th July, the Chinese community in Deptford came out in force. An unexpected turnout of over 80 people including young children and mothers with pushchairs who live and work in the area from a modest 50 estimation. They chanted one voice, one community, stop crime, no more, for our family, for our neighbourhood, protect neighbourhood, united in action; IN a UNIFIED voice which created a very positive 1st step in working together to tackle the issue of persistent crime.
Surrounding shopkeeper came out with curiosity and people in the area peeked through their windows to see what the chanting was all about. The action was public and noted. The message was clear that the Chinese community have had enough, BREAKING their silence to STOP crime. This has brought people together who share same experience being targets of crime. The march included pit stops at several sites which the community mapped out where persistent robbery at knife and gun point occur before the final destination at Deptford police station where the delegation was received by Chief Inspector Shaun Willshire and his neighbourhood team. The Chinese leader in ms xiao qin she presented case and asked him to work with the chinese community to ensure 100% crime is reported and to start working with them to erase crime in all its form to make the neighbourhood safer for all. The chief inspector acknowledge the problems of language barrier and trust; through negotiations, he had offerred a meeting to meet with the Chinese leaders in Deptford to discuss next steps and what mechanisms can be put into place so the community can report crime safely without fear. The action ended with a little 7 year old boy who presented an amulet to the chief inspector and said "I carry this with me all the time to keep me safe, you can have it. I do not need this anymore because now I have hope that you will PROTECT us".
Over the past year or so, children and parents from three Greenwich primary schools in membership of South London Citizens have been working together to address issues of street safety.
When a 10-year old child from St Joseph’s Primary School tells you that he doesn’t feel safe walking from his home to his local leisure centre (which is only five minutes away), when a child from Halstow Primary School tells you that she can’t go and visit her friend in the evening even though she only lives a few streets away from her, when a child from St Alfege with St Peter’s Primary School tells you he is worried about going to secondary school next year as waiting for the bus with lots of other children can often be intimidating, members of South London Citizens in Greenwich get together and act.
Since a first meeting in May 2009 where twenty-five parents and children got together to think about safety in their local area, a lot has happened. Discussions between schools have taken place, research has been carried out to identify problems which have then been refined into specific issues, and actions have developed to make things better. The CitySafe campaign – a community-led campaign that addresses issues of street safety and which builds positive relationships between schools, the police, and local neighbours – has been involving scores of like-minded citizens who believe in a world where people work together.
If you look at what you can find between St Alfege with St Peter’s, St Joseph’s, and Halstow primary schools, what do you find? Lots of shops is the answer!
Groups of children and parents decided, therefore, to approach the hundred or so shopkeepers that work on Trafalgar Road and the portion of Woolwich Road that goes to the East Greenwich Library and asked them to work with South London Citizens to make the area safer. But what do you ask shopkeepers in order to make the area safer? Two main things:
- You get them to pledge to report 100% of crime and anti-social behaviour
- You get them to offer their premises as a place of haven for anyone in danger
Out of the hundred or so shops approached, about sixty agreed to join the CitySafe campaign. The local schools are building teams of children and parents who will visit the shops on a regular basis to review if and how the campaign is making things better.
In the past few days, sixty parents and children, joined by police officers, went to visit shops and got some great feedback. Some shopkeepers on Trafalgar Road, for instance, are pleased to report that police officers have been visiting the shops more regularly. Some young people have also been using the shops when they have not been feeling too safe. As the shops were visited, flowers were given to the shopkeepers by children as a sign of gratitude.
It is clear that things are not going to change overnight, but all the members of South London Citizens involved in this work in Greenwich agree that if you know you know and are ready to support your neighbours, your street becomes safer. This is the simple message the CitySafe campaign is spreading in the streets of Greenwich!
See a video about the campaign in Greenwich at www.southlondoncitizens.org.uk/greenwich.