Former gang member Sheldon Thomas has said that “no one takes police officers seriously” so sending them into schools to talk about knife crime will “never” work.
A 17-year-old girl, Jodie Chesney, was stabbed in the back on Friday night when she was playing music with five other teenagers in an east London park.
Mr Thomas is now the chief executive of Gangsline, a charity that helps those trying to escape gangs, and he told talkRADIO's Julia Hartley-Brewer that the police's methods "were never going to work".
He said: “The methods they were using were never going to work. You cannot have police officers going into school telling children about knife crime because no one takes police officers seriously in the sense that they do not have that relationship with them.
“We need the message being sent into schools by people who have lived it, nearly died from it.
“Especially in London where a lot of the crime is black kids on black kids, you need people going into the schools who can show them how many friends they have lost to this lifestyle. A police officer can’t say that.”
'They live in a parallel world'
Mr Thomas added that gang members don’t respect the criminal justice system.
“A vast majority of these young people involved in this lifestyle of gangs and carrying weapons – they live in a parallel world – in their world there is not a criminal justice system,” he said.
“There is not a way to go to the police because it is retaliation and an initiation where young people are told to stab people so that they can be a part of a gang. There is a lot of mentality that has to be looked at.”
He suggested that many poor white and black communities only see police officers when “they come to arrest them”.
Mr Thomas said: “We need an increase in police officers but a different kind of police officer. We need to go back to having friendly police officers because in poor white and black communities they only see police when they come to arrest them.”