by Ben Bloom
Friday, March 23, 2012
Headteachers from secondary schools across north Westminster have held a summit meeting after gunshots were heard outside a school in Maida Vale.
The shots were heard near St Augustine’s High School on Oxford Road at about 3pm last Thursday and it is thought they could be linked to a rise in youth violence throughout the north of the borough.
Just hours after the headteachers meeting, which took place on Tuesday, a 16-year-old boy was stabbed in the arm outside the Avenues Youth Project in Queen’s Park at 9.50pm. Police believe the offence is gang-related.
Earlier this month two roads in Maida Vale were temporarily closed following gang-related incidents and there is increasing concern about the use of minicabs in gang kidnapping incidents.
Youth workers have reported a number of incidents, some of which have not been reported to police, of gangs kidnapping or attempting to kidnap youths from rival areas using minicabs.
There have also been reports of gang members travelling in minicabs while armed with machetes, knives and guns.
After reports of the gunshots in Maida Vale last week, police sent a firearms unit to Oxford Road but they were unable to find any weapons or confirm whether a gun was fired.
MP Karen Buck, who was present at Tuesday’s headteachers meeting, said: “It was a very successful meeting and people are taking this very seriously.
“One of the things everybody feels might be good is to put the schools in a position to develop some sort of outreach programme themselves to compliment the work done by the youth services. There’s no doubt whatsoever that Westminster schools are places of safety where gang violence is not intruding.
“The point of the schools coming together is to see how they can play a role in spreading the excellent work they do inside the schools into the wider community.”
Westminster children’s boss Cllr Nickie Aiken said the council “shares community concerns about rising levels of serious youth crime”. The council recently launched its £1.5million Your Choice gangs strategy to tackle the problem.
“We have also met with headteachers at a number of secondary schools around Westminster this week to discuss their concerns about the rise in violent crime in the community,” said Cllr Aiken.
“It’s vitally important that we all work together to stand up to this spate of violence, and I would urge Westminster residents to remain vigilant and report any suspicious behaviour or criminal activity to the police.”