The way out of drug-related crime is education, Brent safer neighbourhood meeting hears
PUBLISHED: 12:18 30 May 2019
Keeping kids in school instead of excluding them was a solution put forward by a Harlesden headteacher at a meeting on how to tackle drug-related crimes.
Danny Coyle and his fellow panellists were hosted by the Brent Safer Neighbourhood Board (BSNB) on May 21.
The community was invited to share ideas following presentations by panel members, including the police, drug misuse charity WDP, a school mentor, Brent Youth Parliament and Brent Council.
The meeting heard that WDP helps children as young as 12 and adults as old as 77 with substance misuse issues, with an increase in people over 60 coming to them for help.
Mary Payne, from WDP, said: "It's not just a problem with young people, it's a problem across the whole community."
Mr Coyle, who steers Newman Catholic College, said: "I do not purposely exclude a child for using drugs - I find a solution. A child selling drugs is much more controversial."
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He said he had recently been responsible for not excluding four pupils by finding other solutions.
The school has targeted anti-crime measures, such as random bag searchs and "your life - you choose" workshops delivered by paramedics, police and ex-offenders.
"Nobody can do this on their own," he added. "It's about partnership."
Born in the UK, Desmond Skyers grew up in Jamaica and was smoking marijuana by the time he was nine. In the 1980s he was jailed for 23 years for drug distribution, and used his prison experience to turn around his life. Now an author of six books, he is also a mentor for St Giles Trust, inspiring excluded youngsters to change their lives.
"We have to change the mindset and the attitude and then we can change the behaviour," he said. "They are our children. If you don't change them, what's going to happen? It's our children who are going to be doctors, lawyers, teachers. If we don't try and change the way they think, we are going to have some issues."
Lennox Attoh, 22, told the room: "If you are passionate about young people, you will go out of your way to help them."
Gill Close, chair of BSNB, said: "We'll look at which groups we can put together and make things happen."