Police across East Area Command covering Redbridge, Havering and Barking and Dagenham have launched ‘Operation Riverside’ in a bid to safeguard youngsters vulnerable to gang culture and minimise conflict and even violence among young people as they return to school.
The activity, overseen from a police perspective by Detective Chief Inspector Seb Adjei-Addoh, is a tri-borough partnership initiative bringing together policing, justice, education and support agencies.
A number of policing units will be taking part in the initiative including the Gangs Unit, Violence Suppression Unit, dedicated Schools Officers and Police Cadets.
External partners supporting the activity include schools, Victim Support, West Ham Foundation, Met Girls and Barking & Dagenham Council.
The activity comprises a number of different approaches including enhanced highly visible patrols across all three boroughs at the start and end of the school day, with particular attention on the start and end of term and including not just the popular school routes but also transport hubs and places where youngsters may gather.
Working with partners at Victim Support and local outreach schemes, plans are in place to support vulnerable youngsters who have become victims of crime.
Letters have been sent to the parents of youngsters who are believed to be involved in some way in gang activity or conflict, making them aware of the police activity and encouraging them to deter their youngsters from involving themselves in actions that could negatively affect their futures.
Officers will also work closely with the Crown Prosecution Service [CPS] to ensure that any youngsters who chose to commit violent offences are dealt with swiftly and placed before the courts. In addition, steps will be taken to ensure that those released on bail are compliant with their bail conditions and those who are not compliant will be taken into custody.
In support of the prevention, enforcement and investigation, a number of background engagement activities will be running including round-table discussions with youngsters at youth clubs and centres and social media forums for parents who have concerns about youth crime and gang culture.
Detective Chief Inspector Adjei-Addoh said: “We have a duty of care toward all of our youngsters, and every young person arrested is offered the opportunity to work with experts to formulate an exit strategy away from criminality.
“However, this initiative focuses heavily on protecting law-abiding children from those who would commit violence against them by minimising opportunities for conflict to escalate to a stage where someone may be physically hurt.
“With the inclusion of lockdown, youngsters have been away from school for many months, and during that time there may have been any number of disputes and grudges created either face to face or online.
“The steps we are taking now aim to mitigate that threat and reduce the number of youngsters becoming victims of violent crime, gang related or otherwise, while at the same time reducing the number of our youngsters whose lives and future prospects are tainted by a criminal record.”
Operation Riverside comes hot on the heels of a new campaign, Lost Hours, recently launched by Barking and Dagenham Council to tackle local youth violence by asking parents to take greater responsibility for their children’s whereabouts. Councillor Margaret Mullane, Cabinet Member for Enforcement and Community Safety at Barking and Dagenham Council said: “There is no hiding away from the fact that in recent years, youth violence has been getting worse, not just in Barking and Dagenham but across the whole of London.
“It’s so important that organisations and parents work together on initiatives such as ‘Operation Riverside’ and the ‘Lost Hours’ campaign, to beat this worrying issue because it affects the whole community and ruins lives.”
For more information on the Lost Hours campaign go to: www.losthours.org.
Do you know about someone who is involved in crime or carries a knife? If you have information that could help keep your community safe please call police on 101 or Tweet @MetCC.
If you don’t want to speak to police, please contact the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or visit crimestoppers_uk.org. They do not ask your name and cannot trace your call or I.P address.
Any young people who have information about violence or knife crime, can visit www.fearless.org where they can pass on information anonymously – your I.P address will not be traced. Fearless is part of the Crimestoppers charity, and is also independent of the police.