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Last Updated: Thursday, 30 October 2003, 17:56 GMT
Nipping gun culture in the bud
By Cindi John
BBC News Online community affairs reporter

A popular music venue in Hackney, east London, is packed with young people. But they have not come to see any bands perform.

Members of the Young Black Positive Advocates with Leroy Logan of the Met Black Police Association
The event was organised by young people for young people
Instead they sit transfixed by images flickering across a giant screen on the stage.

A succession of young men lie shot dead, sprawled on London streets in pools of blood.

Occasional gasps ripple around the room as a particularly gruesome picture flashes on to the screen.

The scenes are certainly horrific but it's not a horror film in the conventional sense - the screening is part of a conference organised for young people to educate them about the dangers of gun crime.

The film was part of a presentation made by Chief Inspector Leroy Logan of the Metropolitan Black Police Association (MBPA) on the work of Operation Trident - the Metropolitan force's squad which targets gun and drugs-related crime in six London boroughs.

Ch Insp Logan was unrepentant about showing such a graphic film to the youngsters, stressing the need to show the reality of the aftermath of gun crime.

We hope to show them that if we can stand up and make the change, then they can as well
Haji Munye, Young Black Positive Advocates

"Some people might be attracted by the fast lifestyle - the nice cars and clothes and so on - but we tell them it can end up in a fast death. There is no bling bling in this one," he told his audience.

Many of the 150 youngsters - aged from 13-19 - came from London communities where gun crime is an ever-present threat.

Some, like 17-year-old Alex Babb, whose cousin was injured in a shooting, had personal experience of gun crime.

"When it happened I wasn't that shocked because I thought it's only a matter of time before it starts to get to people close to you.

"Even though my cousin doesn't get involved in that sort of thing, he just seemed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time," Alex said.

'Make the change'

The decision to show the film was welcomed by one member of the audience, Steven Ogunbodede, 16, from Hackney.

"I think it's good they showed it, it will have an influence on some people, the type of people who get influenced too much by what they see their friends doing. I think it might make them change their ways," he said.

The youngsters discussed issues in a series of workshops

That is the sort of comment the organisers of the conference want to hear more often.

The conference, Moving Forward, was run by members of the Young Black Positive Advocates (YBPA) who introduced the guests, performed anti-gun and drug songs and led workshops covering themes ranging from guns and drug crime to teenage pregnancy.

YBPA chair Haji Munye, 16, said he hoped the event would help young people see both sides of gun culture.

"There's a good part to the fast life and there's a bad part, mainly a bad part, there's a little good part but eventually it will become bad.

"We hope to show them that if we can stand up and make the change, then they can as well, that if we can stand up against these things then everyone else can."

'Keeping a lid on it'

The conference was the final event in the month long Revival campaign which has seen an effort on the part of the MBPA to inform communities as a whole about the dangers of gun culture.

Open discussions during the day threw up a wide range of issues around gun crime and the police which were developed further in a series of workshops.

Whether such events will bear fruit in the long run remains to be seen but latest figures from Operation Trident are encouraging, with murders investigated by officers from the Trident team falling in the last year.

However, Leroy Logan of the MBPA does not believe that gives ground for complacency.

He says other factors are involved in the drop in figures including better medical intervention saving the lives of some gunshot victims.

"I think all we're doing is keeping a lid on it but it's a major explosion," he said.

But Mr Logan does see reason for hope: "We're fortunate in having stringent gun laws and community partnerships.

"It's not in our culture to carry guns so let's hope that continues and the majority of our young people will mentor others who are in to that sort of lifestyle."

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