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London Assembly publishes draft Police and Crime Plan 2021/25

The Mayor of London has invited Londoners to have their say on his new draft Police and Crime Plan. The draft Plan sets out the Mayor’s priorities to make the capital a safer city. Despite a decline in overall homicides, the number of teenage homicides in London has increased this year. Driving down crime and attempting to prevent violence and the loss of young lives is at the heart of the Mayor’s priorities for this term.

Will the draft plan make an impact on policing and crime in Waltham Forest? Does the Mayor need to go further? Do you have any ideas on how crime can be reduced in your ward? 

The plan contains commitments to:

  • prioritise resources to places where the risk of violence is highest and implement a new Problem Oriented Policing (POP) approach;
  • continue the London Violence Reduction Unit’s delivery against its current strategy which prioritises supporting young people, with a range of programmes aimed at reducing risks faced by young Londoners; supporting them in staying safe and putting in place long-term arrangements to provide positive opportunities for young people to fulfil their potential;
  • MOPAC and the VRU will intensify focus on understanding and addressing the relationship between drugs and violence in London including establishing a London Drugs Commission comprising independent experts and leading figures from the fields of criminal justice, public health, politics, community relations and academia. The Commission will pull together the latest evidence on the effectiveness of our drugs laws, but with particular focus on cannabis;
  • ending the criminal exploitation of young Londoners by gangs and wider criminal networks, a known driver of violence affecting young people in London. As well as supporting the MPS to crack down on the organised criminals preying on young people to deal drugs, the Rescue and Response programme will continue its work to better understand, target and respond to County Lines offending and victimisation;
  • investing in the provision of support for young people impacted by violence – including those seen to be offenders but have also often experienced victimisation – to reduce the risk of violence to both themselves and others. This includes specialist support to young victims of violence requiring hospital treatment; young victims of crime linked to gangs; and those wanting to exit gangs.

You can see the Plan in full at and the evidence base underpinning it here – .

You can also submit your feedback on the draft plan via email ( or by post to MOPAC, 169 Union Street, London SE1 0LL.

The consultation is now open and will run until 21st January 2022.

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What steps should you take if you find a knife or bladed weapon in a public place?

What steps should you take if you find a knife or bladed weapon in a public place?

One question, members of our team are occasionally asked during our engagement sessions in the community are what practical steps people should take if they find a knife in a public place and are worried that it may be used to harm someone.

If you find a knife which you think has been hidden intentionally for possible use in the future, call the police on 101 as soon as you can. Leave the knife in place. Follow the police’s advice. They may ask you to safely remove the knife and to store it in a clean plastic bag in a secure location until it can be collected or taken to your local police station.

If you are worried that the knife may be linked to a criminal offence locally – it may appear to have traces of blood on it for example – it is critical that you don’t touch the knife and that you leave it where it is.  Call the police on 999 immediately and stay in the area where you found the knife until the police arrive at the scene, unless you feel unsafe doing that.  If the weather is poor, you might be advised to cover the knife to preserve any evidence for the police investigation.

If you find an unwanted kitchen knife in a place where there is no suggestion that it may be  linked to a crime (for example, on the floor near a bin store), there may be no need for police involvement at all and the knife can be recycled responsibly by handing it to waste collection teams or safely disposed of in a recycling centre/bin.

Remember, in England, it is illegal to carry a knife in public without good reason, unless it is a knife with a folding blade that is three inches long or less or to use any knife in a threatening way, even if it is a legal one. For more information on the law on carrying knives, see

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When a child goes missing; essential steps a parent/guardian should take

Nothing is more nerve-wracking to a parent than when a child goes missing. Of the thousands of missing children reported annually, fortunately, the majority of missing person cases are resolved within hours. But gangs and criminal networks do groom and exploit children as part of their drug markets and so parents must take any missing child or young person seriously. We’ve prepared a guide on what you should do when you’ve lost a child.

Call the Police immediately

If you cannot locate your child and it is out of character for them to not be in touch with you or anyone else, you should immediately report your child missing to the police by calling 101 or 999 (if you are worried that they are in immediate danger). You do not need to wait 24 hours to report your child as missing.  Do not spend time looking for the child until you have alerted the police.  If you would prefer to make the report in person, you can find details of your local police station here –

The police will provide you with an incident number and an officer will be sent out to your home address to take a missing persons report. Record the Officer’s name, collar number and ask for the details of who will be dealing with the matter.

Once you have reported your child missing to the police, they will make an assessment of the level of risk to them. Your child’s age and circumstances of their disappearance (e.g. whether or not they have been reported missing before) will dictate the level of investigation they undertake. This may include searching the areas where your child was last seen, reviewing CCTV footage, making attempts to contact them by phone or computer, checking local hospital admissions, checking associates’ addresses known to have been with previously.

It is sensible to reach an agreement with the police as to what you will do whilst they are conducting a search, to avoid duplication and how often you expect to hear from the Police and if you do not, how frequently you will contact them for an update.

Get ready to share your child’s information.

In the moment when you cannot find your child, it’s common to forget the basic information the police and safeguarding agencies may need. Be prepared to provide as much key information as you can, including the following:

  • Child’s full name.
  • Child’s weight/ height.
  • Child’s age and date of birth
  • Clothes the child was last seen wearing.
  • Identifying features, like glasses or a birthmark
  • Names and contact information of the child’s friends or close acquaintances.
  • Frequently visited places where they are known to hangout.
  • Any health issues the child may have.
  • Any other possibly relevant details about the time or place the child went missing.
  • Try to find several recent photographs that clearly display distinguishing characteristics.

Alternatively, you can use this template prepared by charity PACE (Parents Against Child Exploitation) to help you –

Look in your immediate area.

Call, text, and message your child via mobile, social media or apps. Stay calm, show them you’re concerned and just want them home safe. If your child has social media accounts, they may have left some digital clues, but rather than digging through electronic records yourself, ask police to explore messaging histories and social sites.

Ask friends or family if anyone knows where they are.

Keep your phone close to you in case they contact you and check any other ways they may get a message to you.

Make sure someone stays at the house in case they come back.

If your child is found or comes home

Parents and carers must inform the police when their child returns home, as soon as possible. If you have any concerns that a crime has been committed, report it at the same time. The Police understand that many young people are coerced or exploited by others and they will see your child as a victim of exploitation rather than a criminal. It is likely that the Police will want to ask them questions about their experience and offer them support rather than arresting or detaining them. 

Remain calm, express relief and tell your child that you’re happy to have them home.  Calmly talk to your child about where they have been and the reasons they went missing. Let them know that you were worried and care about them and you want to work through any problems together. Try and create an environment where they feel listened to and supported. Make a note of any information they tell you for the police.

Get medical attention if they need it.

Preventative measures

Though kidnapping and abduction cases are rare, taking some preventive step will help you handle any situation.

Familiarise your family with the steps to take in the event that your child goes missing. Share this blog with them.

To minimize the risk of disappearance, discuss sharing locations with your children on their mobile phones e.g., use the ‘Find My’ App on iPhone  or Google’s Trusted Contacts app on Android phones

You can share your location between an iPhone and Android device by using Google Maps “Share your location” feature. (See – Google Maps lets you send your exact location in a text message, which can be sent between iPhones and Android devices.

For iPhone –

For Android –

Ensure your children have an ‘in case of emergency’ (ICE) telephone number for you readily set up in their phone contacts so they can contact you at a moments notice.

If you are worried your child may be being exploited

To help local safeguarding teams or the Police, make a note of:

  • Any times your child goes missing.
  • Names, nicknames, ages and descriptions about people who concern you.
  • Car registrations, make, model, colour that may have been seen dropping off or collecting your child.
  • Phone numbers, profiles, usernames that your child is being contacted by on phones, apps, social media or games consoles.
  • Places your child talks about going to.
  • Dates and times when the things above may be happening.

Contact Waltham Forest Council’s Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) to discuss any concerns:

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Misunderstanding of drill music leading to unfair convictions?

A report produced by JUSTICE, a working party examining the causes of BAME disproportionality in the Youth Justice System has identified Courts and Prosecutors misunderstanding of drill music purely as an incitement to violence as one factor contributing to the over-representation of minority ethnic youths in the criminal justice system.

Justice found that 52% of those in custody aged 10-17 were from an ethnic minority background, compared to 18% of the general population. It highlights the unfair use of drill music by Prosecutors as bad character evidence in court which paints the genre as ‘innately illegal, dangerous and problematic’.

JUSTICE highlight lyrics being adduced as biographical statements, which are ruled to be admissible evidence by magistrates and judges, leading to convictions against children in gang-based crimes, on the basis of an appearance in a music video.

There is evidence that drill music is inevitably hijacked by gangs to promote their brand, reputation, territory, and drugs networks, but the majority of the young people we engage with, see drill music as a way of expressing themselves – talking about their environment, day to day lives and their reality. The lyrics are often about obtaining money, status, and power, because these are the things many young people on the streets don’t have.

Read our blog on the drill discussion

Or review the findings and forty five recommendations made by JUSTICE here:

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Drill music – a means of self-expression? Or giving ‘violence’ a voice?

Drill music, originating from Chicago, is a form of rap music. Its beats, flow, and the way it’s produced, differentiates it from its predecessor, grime music.

Most drill artists are young people with plenty to say on issues like climate change, politics, and austerity. However, historically, the lyrics of many drill songs focus on gang culture and gang rivalries as well as life on the streets including drugs, money, and sex. 

Drill music has promoted plenty of debate; does its dark lyrics and gritty beats, encourage criminal behaviour? Or, like grime before it, does it offer young people living in some of the poorest inner city areas, an escape route, a way of earning money from music sales and a first step in escaping poverty, gang life and crime?

Allies see it as a way of young people expressing themselves – talking about their environment, day to day lives and their reality. Some observers think the lyrics are often about obtaining money, status, and power, because these are the things people on the streets don’t have.

The real danger comes when those involved in gang culture, judge the performer’s authenticity on whether the artist will follow through with what they claim, taunt, or threaten in the lyrics of their songs. It’s the perceived and actual threats that put the artists authenticity, credibility, status, and ultimately their personal safety, on the line.

Opponents of drill music see it as a means of giving violence a voice or a way of normalising the violent behaviour drill artists talk about. They see it as a platform for rival gangs to air their ‘beefs’ online, often encouraged or goaded by allies, supporters and opponents. Sometimes with fatal outcomes.

This has led Police to target drill music in their response to tackling violence. They consider that the music has become a way of criminal gangs antagonising each other and making threats which result in violent reprisals being taken on the streets, fuelling the rise in serious youth violence and knife crime.

In 2019, Met Police Commissioner, Cressida Dick said “Drill music is associated with lyrics which are about glamourising serious violence: murder, stabbings…. they describe the stabbings in great detail, joy, and excitement. Extreme violence against women is often talked about.”  

The Met Police requested that You Tube take down a number of videos and songs which they considered glamourise violence. You Tube have also now developed policies to tackle the posting of videos linked to or promoting knife crime in the UK.

Critics of this approach point to other social factors fuelling the evolution of UK street gangs, knife crime and youth violence in the UK – with the real drivers being poverty, deprivation, the impact of austerity, a failure by government to tackle social issues, and a lack of opportunity for young people. 

In 2019, a study conducted at UCL (Kleinberg & McFarlane) suggested that drill music listeners are more likely to be drawn towards lyrics with a positive overall message even when it contains violent language. An analysis of 550 YouTube videos by 105 London-based drill music artists, found that songs with a more positive sentiment attracted twice as many views and comments.

The debate will continue. And while it does, there are steps that young people who produce their own drill music, can take to reduce the risk of inadvertently becoming a victim of their art.

Firstly, a number of organisations working with young people, promote making drill music safely.

Groups like “Word not Weapons” (see –, Project Zero (, Audio Active (, and Music Fusion (  are committed to supporting young artists and promoting a strong community safety message and advising young people on risk.  

Secondly, avoiding producing songs with inflammatory lyrics or videos reduces the risk of becoming a target for reprisals and the possibility that message scan be misinterpreted or misunderstood.  Although maybe less of a money-making option, artists can reduce risks by posting music on less public platforms than You Tube, which has become a platform of choice for drill artists.

Family members too have a role. Drill music can be made in bedrooms and be posted in seconds on social media platforms, and subsequently shared many thousands of times. Drill music and videos are also widely available online. Parents or family members, who take the time to share an interest in the music, particularly the lyrics their children are producing, can act as suitable check and balance before any online damage is done. They can also get a flavour of the messages that their children are being exposed to. Opening up a discussion with a young person about the messages in a song, without being judgmental, can help make them more open to hearing your concerns, discussing the dangers, and teaching them to be critical of some of drill music’s messages.  Finally, family members can raise concerns about the posting of violent or graphic content on You Tube under the new You Tube Community Guidelines . Similar guidance on potentially harmful or dangerous content  or sexually explicit content or videos portraying the exploitation of children and young people is also available online.

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Need for extra-vigilance after lengthy school closure to curb spread of COVID19

On Wednesday the government announced that all schools would close to curb the spread of Covid-19 with only children of key workers and those classed as “vulnerable” – pupils with a social worker or needing special needs support – allowed to keep attending. 

There is a real fear that at-risk children could be exposed to exploitation by county lines drug gangs during the shutdown with no firm timeline for how long schools will stay shut. Recently, children excluded from school or attending Pupil Referral Units have been seen as a recruitment pool for gangs. 

There is evidence that children as young as seven have been promised drugs, cash and ‘street capital’ to run drugs along the 2,200 drug-dealing county lines gangs estimated by the National Crime Agency to be operating across the UK. 

Local authority safeguarding and community safety teams are still be working to protect young people despite the challenges posed by coronavirus and anyone who is worried about the welfare of a child or young person should contact the multi-agency safeguarding hub at Waltham Forest via or calling 020 8493 2310.

Our Ask Me volunteers are also available for young people and their families during this time. Although we have scaled back our activities in line with government advice on social distancing, we can offer support to any young person or their family at risk of being affected by gang, knife harm and serious youth violence by phone, or face to face via Facetime or skype. If you or someone you know needs support, please email or contact us via our website (

For details about our Ask Me volunteers or to access our FAQs or community directory, see or ask us a question via the Ask Us link.

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How to save a life: emergency first aid for victims of knife crime.

A must watch clip for all young people as lead nurse for Violence Reduction at The Royal London Hospital, Michael Carver, explains what happens when someone is stabbed and what you need to do to help save them. It also provides some insight on what environment young people can experience when they’re admitted to A&E with a knife injury. An invaluable watch and potentially life saving journalism by BBC. 

Watch the clip here –

To learn more about why young people carry knives and why we are seeing a rise in ultra violence, please see

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Ask Me about gangs scheme

The ‘Ask Me About Gangs’ service deployed its first Ambassadors this autumn as part of the Borough Council’s gang prevention programme. The new service builds on two recent successes; a similar project promoted by Women’s Aid supporting victims of domestic violence, and the positive impact of the Streetbase peer support network run by young people, for young people, in Waltham Forest.

Thirty ‘Ask Me’ advisers are now working across the borough, with a further cohort due to go live in March, bringing the number of advisers in the team to forty.  However, the ‘Ask Me’ Service is much more than an adult led outreach service looking to support young people and families at risk of gang or youth violence. The team behind ‘Ask Me’ , We Can Work It Out Ltd, has also built, with the help of young people in the borough, an online resource answering commonly asked questions about gang and county lines issues, allowing young people to ask further questions about issues that concern them and compiling an up to date, database of the key support services and organisations in Waltham Forest.

Ambassadors at a recent ward walk in Waltham Forest

Jonathan Green, one of the Directors of ‘We Can Work It Out’, who are leading the work, said “We are delighted to be working with the Council to offer a positive alternative for young people in the borough. Its great to see so many people using the website and how the website and our Ambassadors have joined up so many of the organisations working so hard for young people in the borough”

Anyone interested in becoming an Ask Me Ambassador should be 18 years and over. You can express your interest via

The FAQ section of the website can be found here -.

The online directory of community services working to reduce the impact of gang and knife related crime can be found at –

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Election 2019 campaign – in touch with one of the biggest public health issues facing our country in 2019?

As politicians and those who gorge themselves on polls, leafletting and manifests argue about getting  Brexit done (or not), whether the President of the US really wants a stake in our NHS (or not)  and whether any of the parties’ promises can be afforded (or not), one issue is markedly missing from TV debates,  manifesto headlines and potential MPs’ hustings – when and how are we going to start to address the issue of rising gang-violence, knife crime and county lines?

So far this week:

  • The media reported on the opening day of the trial of those accused of allegedly killing Jaden Moodie in a “frenzied attack” in Waltham Forest at the turn of this year.  The prosecutor in the case said the images shown to the jury, showed the killers had “no qualms about playing out their petty gang rivalries using the blade of a knife”.  Jaden was a 14-year-old.
  • Three men have died and a further seven were injured in knife attacks across the capital last weekend. There was large scale reporting of the latest incidents in Ealing, Ilford, Isleworth and Whitechapel and one paper claims the deaths “laid bare the horrific knife crime epidemic plaguing the streets of the capital”. Others reported that the latest deaths were part of a “shocking weekend of knife violence across London”. While the random and barbaric nature of the attacks, the ages of the victims and the impact on lives across the capital is still shocking, it is no longer such a shock or such a surprise to see these headlines in Monday morning’s newspapers.  
  • The Guardian newspaper has printed two insightful articles, among the pages of electoral infighting, on the rise of county lines activity across the country, trapping “scared kids” in the cycles of the kinds of violence which likely led to the tragic death of Jaden Moodie and those who died recently in Ealing, Whitechapel and Ilford.  A second article reports on the thousands of girl gang members trapped in a cycle of violence and abuse, as the latest figures produced by the Children’s Commissioner suggest that up to 34% of children involved in gangs are girls who are at risk of both criminal and sexual exploitation. 

And yet, the issue has yet to grip the 2019 election campaign.

Nationally, in the UK, we have seen an increase in serious youth violence and gang-related crime in the last five years. Across England and Wales, the number of deaths caused by knives, guns and violent assaults have increased by over a third. Knife offences have risen by over 70% to a nine-year high. The number of under-18s admitted to hospital with knife injuries rose by 33% between 2013/14 and 2017/18. London has seen similar trends to those nationally.  

There are various reasons put forward for the rise in serious youth violence, ranging from cuts to youth services, policing budgets, and failure of youth and safeguarding agencies to evolve to deal with a twenty first century problem. It is undeniable however that the significant rise in serious youth violence and knife crime in England and Wales is due to an evolution in our home-grown gangs. These gangs have evolved in the vacuum left by cuts in youth services and policing budgets and a failure to keep track of their organised crime methods; also because of rapid marketing through social media.

This has not only had a profound impact on young people in our metropolitan cities, but also, via county lines activity, that impact is being felt in affected areas of the countryside (particularly deprived towns and seaside locations) which have previously not seen gang activity.

During the course of gang prevention work we have been doing with Waltham Forest Council’s public health approach to violence, we have heard parents, brothers and sisters of those sucked into gang life tell us they wished they’d known more about county lines so they could have better supported their child. They tell us that without understanding the signs of exploitation, they can’t act. That was the driver for launching our online advice pages for parents ( and the linked service giving young people and their families the ability to ask us questions that concern them.

The key messages that need to be relayed to parents as part of a public health campaign are clear.

  • The numbers of those involved in gang activity has grown, with young people joining gangs far earlier and staying locked into gang activity for longer.  Recent studies show that children as young as 12 are becoming active in gangs, and rather that leaving gangs in their early twenties, gang elders are now trapped in gang life into their thirties. This means the pool of gang activists is now bigger than ever before and the competition is greater.
  • Gangs have now developed their own gig-economy which can deliver drugs to the user by motorbike in London and other big cities, or else young people are groomed and coerced into acting as couriers for county lines activity. The drugs markets are themselves becoming saturated and overcompetitive, leading to more gang-related violence as gangs compete over post-codes and territory.
  • Social media is being widely exploited by gangs to recruit new members, attract fans, broadcast and brag about achievements, market the gangs and advertise drug dealing. Social media can also be used to trap members within gangs; many face the threat of live-streaming humiliating videos or images as a means of coercion and control. It is a 24/7, 52 weeks-a-year tool which can lead to young people suffering high levels of anxiety and mental health problems.
  • Far from providing the camaraderie and the element of a ‘missing family’ dynamic, gang activity is becoming ultra-violent, more competitive and more difficult to escape. A leading academic in this field, Professor Simon Harding, in his must-read book for any parent, “Street Casino” writes that gang members face “greater competition to get noticed, to get ahead of the gang or to build reputations. As a result, gang members engage in ultra-violence in order to maintain street capital”. Consequently, this “increasing cycle of violence has altered social norms for some groups of young people with ultra-violence now a part of everyday life”. It is this very activity, which is now being played out daily on television, on social media and in newspapers, driving the headlines in Monday morning papers of apparently random, senseless attacks on young people, in areas once unused to seeing violence of this kind.

The rise of county lines drugs gangs is a public health emergency. Its impact is being felt in urban and rural communities, not used to tackling violence and drug dealing and ill equipped to act. Many of the support services previously in place to deal with social and community care have withered on the vine or are struggling to compete for funding and without the level of strong joined up strategic leadership that is needed to bring those resources together. Much of the narrative being used to explain the rise in serious youth violence in England and Wales is out of date and needs updating. We are dealing with a fast evolving and dangerous 21st century problem, using 20th century rhetoric, agencies and approach.

September saw the launch of the country’s first National Centre for Gang Research, based at the University of Westminster. It’s the first such centre in Europe.  It is the kind of initiative, much needed, that any new government will need to work collaboratively with, let alone fund, in order to improve understanding of the problem and contribute to solutions to fix it.

With a few weeks of the 2019 election campaign to go, we would like to see politicians on all sides acknowledge the scale and seriousness posed by the rise in gang activity, county lines and knife crime and find some debating time or manifesto space to agree:

  • That a radical new way of tackling this public health emergency is needed now – backed by properly costed and affordable funding – working across political parties and allegiances.
  • To tackle current policies, designed to help, but which are actually fuelling the growth of county lines – for example, reducing the rate of school exclusions (which is fuelling the recruitment pool of young people, for gang elders),  reconsidering existing housing policies (which are helping to relocate county lines dealers outside our cities) and tackle the ability of gangs operating within our prisons to continue trading and recruiting.
  • A commitment to listening to young people and the communities affected, to seek their views on the challenges and potential solutions – working ‘with them’, not ‘doing to them’.
  • A commitment to working with the experts in the field, like the National Centre for Gang Research, and relying on 21st century data and intelligence, rather than continuing the siloed, piecemeal, dated and often ineffective approaches of the past.
  • Reinvesting realistically in community services and better rewarding the army of volunteers who are currently tackling the issues on the ground and making a difference.

There is still time to make this big public health issue of our time, a big issue in Decembers election. Please forward this article to your prospective parliamentary candidates or concerned parents.

Read more about our part in the gang prevention programme in Waltham Forest at

Follow us on Twitter (@AskMe_LBWF) or like our pages on Facebook (

Sign up to become one of our Community Ambassador/Advisors here –

Ask us a question here –

Further Reading

Guardian articles – and

Street Casino, Professor Simon Harding –

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Violence Reduction Approach shows initial success stories in its first year

We are delighted to be working in partnership with Waltham Forest Council as part of their violence reduction partnership. The first annual report was published on 1st November 2019 and highlights:

  • A collaborative, partnership approach that recognises the collective responsibility of the whole community to support the borough’s young people to showcase their talents: the partnership includes the council, the police, our schools, health workers, residents and community organisations including We Can Work It Out Ltd/Ask Me.
  • More joint operations with Police than any London borough; this has led to a 38% reduction in crime in one area of the borough.
  • Implementing a gang-exit programme, supporting leavers in the community as they exit prison.
  • Community mentors and Ask Me Ambassadors who are now live and supporting young people and their families in the borough.
  • A 27% reduction in knife crime offences over 12 months.

Our Ask Me service currently offers:

  • An online resource, built with the help of local young people, which looks to answer the typical questions people may have about gangs and serious youth violence. (See –
  • The service also allows young people and their families to ask further questions that we will answer with help from our expert network. Ask Us a question via – ;
  • Community Ambassadors who are deployed across the borough to engage with young people and signpost them to resources in the gang prevention partnership as well as other community organisations who are offering support for people in need or anything from peer to peer support, counselling and financial assistance;
  • A Community Directory putting families in touch with the wide range of excellent support services and organisations across the borough and London. We found that many of the existing online advice pages were out of date or did not contain the full picture of the extensive support offered, in one place. The Ask Me service continues to co-ordinate a full joined-up picture of support available to support our Ambassadors to give the best advice when signposting young people and to help the wider community. The community directory can be found here –

We are continuing to work with Waltham Forest Borough Council and other community partners to expand the offer of the Ask Me service and to build upon the early successes of the public health Violence Reduction approach. The annual report can be read in full here –

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