HC 1456 Home Affairs CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by Croydon Xpress

Croydon Xpress is a young people’s led participation project apart of the community Involvement Team at Croydon Voluntary Action.

Vox Pop Filming

The Xpress team went into the community and filmed interviews with randomly members of the community. The questions we asked them primarily were: How do you feel about the events that transpired? What do you think were the causes of the riots? What did you not get involved? How could the Riots have been handled better? What are the next steps? We accumulated around an hour’s worth of footage from a diverse set of Croydon’s community—in age, race and gender.

The overall feeling was one of sadness at the events that had taken place. Many felt that the riots had just spiralled out of control due to opportunists looking to steal and loot, others felt the causes lay in lack of opportunities and jobs. Among young people the message we received was that the youth who hadn’t rioted had chosen not to because of the values instilled in them by their parents as they grew up.

Some felt the police had done a good job, while others implied feelings of abandonment that the police stood by in defensive walls rather than attempt to stop the looting; many called for the police to use more aggressive tactics during the Riots.

There seemed to be agreement that the immediate steps were to clean up Croydon and compensate those who need it. More long term solutions to the problems involved included suggestions such as: the police need to engage with the community in a more positive way, and the youth need more services provided to them.

Croydon Xpress, Young Peoples BIG Debate Event

Young people from Croydon’s Xpress project chaired a debate about the Croydon riots on Thursday 1 September 2011.

Hosted at the CVA Resource Centre, West Croydon, residents were invited to put questions to a panel which included Croydon North MP Malcolm Wicks, Councillor Sara Bashford who was representing Gavin Barwell MP, and Chief Inspector Mark Nanji.

Chief Inspector Nanji revealed less than 100 police officers were on the streets on 8 August, out of a force of approximately 700 officers.

He denied claims Croydon police had been “caught with their trousers down,” and were unable to deal with major problems, instead praising his officers for their bravery.

Malcolm Wicks MP, repeated his call for a “minute by minute” inquiry into what he described as a “policing failure,” and said the Government were wrong to go ahead with police cuts.

Just under 100 people attended the debate and there appeared to be a general consensus that there has been a communication failure between young people and authorities including the police and council.

Participants suggested that to move forward, such authorities would have to listen to young people and provide more for them to do.

Other people on the panel included Mikey Sivwa from Lives not Knives, Dione Whyte a teacher and parent from Croydon, Mikel Ameen from youth organisation GetFamilyar, PC Linda Allen from Croydon Police Partnership and Hannah Williamson from the Croydon Guardian.

Pictures available on request.

Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) Youth Engagement Training

This summer an innovative project will see a youth project working with local police designed to develop awareness around PCSOs and youngsters in the borough Funded by the Croydon Police Properties Fund the Croydon Xpress Project. Part of the Croydon Voluntary Action Community Involvement team, are currently in the process of engaging over a hundred young people to find out what issues, concerns and experiences they, or their friends, have of the PCSO service. All feedback will be used to design a 2 hour training workshop for the borough’s 30 PCSO’s whose department has the most contact with children and young people. The workshop will include demonstration of the HYPE Tool (How Young People Evaluate) and offer officers good practice methods whilst engaging with young people.

The Xpress team have involved a wide range of young people from across the borough by randomly interviewing and filming young people on buses, trains, trams and at transport interchange points in Central and West Croydon and at the recent New Addington Carnival. Young people who attended Croydon Youth Council and the Police Youth Think Tank were also included.

The Xpress Team also held two planning focus groups, one for PCSO’s and the other was for young people to address some of the barriers and safety concerns relating to transport for young people and PCSO’s.

Georgia Leher, Croydon Xpress Worker said, “Initial findings showed that the PCSO’s and young people were both striving for the same thing ‘RESPECT’. Due to the lack of respect on both sides this has lead to a lack of trust in each other. There is a very strong message coming from young people about being pigeonholed by PCSO’s. They feel that the officer’s approach carries along with it an underlining sense of being stereotyped and prejudged.”

A suggestion giving by young people was for PCSO’s to treat every encounter with a young person as a new experience. 76% of young people agreed that they do indeed treat PCSO’s differently to Police officers. When the PCSO’s role was explained the majority of young people said that this new information altered their view and voiced that this also needs to be told to all young people To help bridge the gap between PCSO’s and the young generation, young people suggested for PSCO’s to engage in simple every day colloquial conversation with young people on the streets simply by saying “hi”, “how are you?” instead of talking to them only about crime and disorder. This friendly approach of dialogue would start to rebuild relationships between the two.

Nicole Beckford, Project Coordinator said “The PCSO’s spoke about situations when young people disrespected them and implied that they had no authority. PCSO’s felt that young people had a lack of understanding to the purpose of their role.”

September 2011

Prepared 22nd December 2011