Croydon has a higher rate of first-time entrants into the youth justice system than the London and national average.
Young offenders often present with other risk factors such as drug addiction, alcohol use and behavioural issues associated with mental health problems and special educational needs
By primary school some of the children assessed by the Vulnerable Adolescents Thematic Review were already exhibiting aggressive and disruptive behaviour leading to 19 receiving fixed term exclusions with all of these children subsequently receiving criminal convictions.
One child highlighted that four of his extended family had died as a result of gang violence. All the young people in prison said they had all lost at least one friend close to them. None had received bereavement support or other counselling to deal with the trauma they felt.
Worst still the increase in serious youth violence and knife crime in communities means that more children who live in gang affected areas may witness extreme violence or know someone who has died or been affected by violence. It appears that the impact of this on children and young people is not fully appreciated.
The report goes on: “This presents a significant risk to society and the next generation of children as violence can be seen by some children in gang affected areas as an everyday norm and part of growing up.”
There are five active gangs in Croydon including CR7 gang (pictured). The Gangs Team are working with 35 entrenched members and monitoring a further 46 adults and 11 children.
A common feature of the children and young people interviewed in custody was they had attended at least one Pupil Referral Unit. Some of those in custody believed education in jail was safer, and better, than the PRU’s.
Children and parents who were spoken to as part of the review were unhappy with the multi-agency response and questioned if the boys had been white, would more have been done to assist them? Those children in the cohort who were spoken to appeared resigned to their situation, the issues of domestic abuse, bereavement and related trauma were never addressed and as indicated in research, the impact of these traumas became “entrenched”.