In March 2007, a young boy, Kodjo Yenga, was fatally stabbed in Hammersmith. The attack sent shockwaves through the local community prompting the local council to look for innovative ways of dealing with young people involved in serious youth violence.
Based on the Boston Operation Ceasefire model, which combines a zero tolerance policy towards violence, the threat of tough enforcement tactics and a support network for young people at risk of joining gangs, the Council introduced the Street Outreach Service (SOS) which helped young people who want to change their lifestyle.
The SOS was run by PC Doris Jessett and Charlie Rigby, a Senior Youth Worker, who worked together to engage with young people involved in Serious Youth Violence and gangs. Over the three years of the project (2009-2011), John Lyon’s Charity awarded £150,000 towards the SOS project.
The SOS project enabled the police and the local authority to work together and with other partner agencies to support young people. The project saw some extremely successful outcomes: 75% of young people in the programme did not re-offend and none of the young people were involved in the London Riots of 2011.
The partnership helped to identify young people involved in gangs and to develop an effective working relationship with them in the community. The message was loud and clear – that violence would not be tolerated, but the support for young people was there at the same time.