‘It’s robbing our children of their freedom and their youth,” said one local mother.
This week (Monday, November 6) marked the start of the daily action that is designed to increase adult presence on the roads after school.
Father-of-two, Dr Matthew Allen, from Dulwich, said he had become increasingly aware of muggings taking place when children are on their way home.
“A boy tried to mug my son on the way home from school one day,” he told us, “luckily he was able to get away by running into the road. But it definitely had an effect on him.”
Fellow parent, Vanessa Perrin, shared a similar experience: “I moved here two years ago – in that time I have been present for a mugging and then my son was mugged.
Determined to do something about it, they said they set up WhatsApp groups in the community, which they claim were going off ‘almost daily’ with reports of a mugging or attempted mugging.
“We wanted to act,” Vanessa explained, “But we didn’t have the tools or the police support.”
That’s when they reached out to Emma Rigby, who has been running a similar scheme in Enfield for the last four years and claims robberies have reduced by nearly half.
Emma said: “After one particularly bad week when nineteen boys were mugged in the same month, we decided to start these patrols to increase the eyes and ears on the streets.
“Within a year of launching the patrols robberies fell by 48 per cent.
“These parents in Dulwich reached out to me and I decided to do a pilot scheme here until Christmas to see if it makes a difference in the area.”
The idea is that parents and community members patrol the areas that are known as ‘mugging hotspots’ from the hours of 3:30pm and 5pm when most children are out. “We just speak to people and if we see anyone get approached we’re on alert and we make ourselves known to them.
“Most of the time it works just to go over and say hello and be visible. If anything ever gets out of hand we just contact the police.”
On their first patrol, Emma demonstrated this – introducing herself and a parent as the new community patrol to everyone who passed by. She stopped one schoolboy and asked if he’d ever been mugged, to which he casually replied: “No, but all of my friends have.”
The group is partnered with the Met Police and will choose which areas to monitor based on where they deem as ‘hotspots’ for crime. Emma hopes to take the scheme London-wide in the near future.
Dr Allen added, “I hope by doing these patrols we’re going to raise awareness and hopefully reduce the number of muggings that happen on the street, like they have in Enfield.”
As well as keeping the young people safe, he said it’s good for fostering community spirit as well, commenting: “You get to meet people and it’s good for your well-being.”
Vanessa said: “We’re here to be positive rather than vigilantes.”
For the first patrol, six willing parents were present but Emma is hopeful and will continue to spread the word. “Forty-five people have already signed up – you don’t have to be a parent to volunteer.”
They said that whilst doing a patrol every day after school is not realistic for working parents, they hope that if enough people sign up they will only have to go out once a month.
As it’s community-led, residents in other areas can get in touch to find out how to bring this to where they live. They are also hoping that schools and other local organisations get involved too.
Anyone wanting to find out more about the scheme and how to volunteer, go to this site.
Article by Isabel Ramirez on Southwark News, filed by Isabel Ramirez ,7th November 2023
Short video available on You Tube via this page of Southwark News. Filed actually on Half Moon Lane by the Judith Kerr School