‘We are trying to fill a space, by providing space’: What role can faiths groups play in tackling crime?

PUBLISHED: 15:00 20 April 2018

Rev Dr Jack Dunn at his Wanstead church

Rev Dr Jack Dunn at his Wanstead church


Faith groups can play a unique part in tackling soaring crime, according to a Wanstead clergyman.

Violent crime has claimed the lives of more than 60 people in the capital so far this year - four in Redbridge.

Operation Sceptre has seen more officers deployed on the streets and increasing use of tactics such as stop and search checks.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd last week unveiled a serious violence strategy, which includes an £11m early intervention youth fund for community projects.

The Recorder spoke to Rev Dr Jack Dunn, whose Wanstead parish holds a weekly youth club, about how faith groups can help address the issue.

“Churches on the whole know their communities well,” said Rev Dunn.

“People sometimes forget that.”

“They are meeting members of the community and they are exposed to the news and issues of the community on a daily basis.”

Rev Dunn said that, while Wanstead has avoided the violent crime levels seen in neighbouring areas such as Waltham Forest, he has witnessed a growing drugs problem.

“We are increasingly seeing drug dealing going on and paraphernalia of drug using, syringes and canisters from legal highs is more prevalent,” he said.

“When we see drug taking, we see it among the younger age group.”

There is a shortage of provisions for young people in the immediate area, he believes, but faith groups can often provide access to resources that other groups lack.

“They are able to provide a venue, a space to host activities and also people who have the training and space to listen to young people attentively,” he said.

“It also helps that we often know the wider family networks - the parents, grandparents, caregivers and wider family networks of our young people and that can make a real difference.”

He added: “This isn’t about converting people or forcing a moral education onto them to turn them away from a potential life of crime.

“Nor is it about going straight in and just saying ‘don’t use drugs’.

“It really is about taking young people seriously and understanding how pressured their lives are and why they are seeking to use drugs and what the alternative paths are.”

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