As knife crime and gang culture scar the streets of England, one program is offering a glimmer of hope.
The X-it youth project has already had a huge impact on one of the country’s toughest gang regions.
The Lambeth project has been so successful — cutting the number of young people getting into trouble by a third — that the model could be used to fight gang crime across the country.
X-it is run by young people who have successfully left gangs and who are then encouraged to become peer mentors for others who are at risk of being influenced by gang culture and peer pressure.
Based in Brixton, South London, it takes troubled kids away from their neighborhoods and gives them access to things they don’t have at home.
“Lots of the lads are into IT and web design,” says the project’s leader Steve Reed. “Others go to dance classes, horse riding lessons, football or basketball. Anything to make them realise they actually have skills.”
Reed insists the program, which won the prestigious children’s services award in the 2007 Guardian newspaper’s Public Services Awards, must be expanded.
“The young people here today, many of whom are now working or off to university,” said Reed, “are proof that when given the opportunity they can put their energy to good use and achieve great things.”