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Tuesday, 17 September, 2002, 19:01 GMT 20:01 UK
Cracking crime in the suburban 'jungle'
Ezra Sutton, St Mellons teenager
Ezra Sutton bemoans lack of social activities
A bus cruising through Cardiff's suburban jungle is helping one of the city's most notorious estates shake off a reputation for crime.

Donated by a local transport operator, the double-decker is operated by a local Christian charity and becomes a mobile youth club after dark in St Mellons.

The suburb was highlighted in 1994, when Welsh Secretary John Redwood launched a pointed attack on local single mothers, advocating a two-parent family unit.

John Redwood, Conservative former Welsh Secretary
John Redwood's comments left bitter feeling locally
Now the eight bus volunteers have moved into homes on the estate to step into residents' own shoes and tackle the causes of crime from within.

Cardiff suffered 2,209 burglaries and 3,111 instances of theft from cars in 2001/02 - well above the national average.

St Mellons youngsters blame a lack of opportunities to stop them from becoming wayward.

"There is nothing to do apart from get into trouble - apart from if you do things like this or the youth club," said teenager Ryan James.

"It keeps everyone from stealing cars and burgling houses. It's just better. There should be more of them."

Street talk

Looking like the latest R 'n B star in shiny jewellery and vest t-shirt, Ezra Sutton, 15, offered a similar opinion.

"There is nothing to do round here apart from this every Thursday - that's it," he told BBC Wales.


It's not good enough to say 'Hi, God loves you'.

That's not the way it works in these areas. You have to be among the people


Dai Hankey
"Youth clubs are hardly open. There is just trouble. That is all that's round here."

They are now two of dozens of local teenagers now jumping aboard the double-decker - designed to get them on the streets as much as on them.

By night, kids play fast-paced vinyl jungle beats on the onboard turntables while friends show off their lyrical skills as MC on the microphone.

Bus project

But project leader Dai Hankey and seven colleagues have taken the bus one step further, living with residents to encourage learning, suggest pasttimes and crack crime.

They break the common stereotype of Christian aid workers, however.

"It's not good enough to say 'Hi, God loves you.' That's not the way it works in these areas. You have to be among the people," he said.

"It was my genuine desire to live among these people - in their shoes - so I can share their lives."

"I remember when John Redwood described the St Mellons estate as a den of scroungers.

"That legacy remains and people see St Mellons as an area where criminals reside and where there are drugs and social problems - but there is a lot more than that.

"I want to see kids stay in education. Once you deal with that issue, crime will naturally come down."

In 2001, St Mellons received 60,000 for a burglary reduction project.

The suburb is also in the throes of a four-year council urban regeneration programme which is demolishing old buildings to create new homes and create training opportunities.


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See also:

14 Sep 02 | Cracking Crime
18 Sep 00 | Wales
12 Sep 02 | Politics
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