The event was introduced by Ian Budge who said it was important that young people had the chance to ask questions of those in authority about safety in the area in which they lived.
Insp McElroy, in answer to the question, ‘Does Havering have a high crime rate compared with other London boroughs?’ said: “Havering is a safe borough compared to other boroughs. Burglary and motor crime are the main issues here, but street crime, robbery and violent crime have all come down in the last few years. We have worked hard to bring these figures down.”
He added that it is more about the perception than the reality and said street-based crime did not increase as the nights got darker. “The area is generally safe. We do not have a gang issue in Havering, but the perception is that groups of young people on the streets are going to be trouble.”
He urged people to report any problems to the police and said the community needed to come together to help each other.
Ian Budge, in reply to the question, ‘What further measures are being put in place to protect staff and students on campus?’ said: “We have put a lot of measures in place such as knife arches, drugs dogs and increasing security staff to keep the college safe. The number of issues we have are very small considering the amount of students we have. By far the majority of our students are kind and hard-working and are disgusted with the very few students who have been involved in issues – who are now no longer with us. I would say 99% of students are excellent students. It’s a false perception to say all students are bad.”
Councillor Sally Miller agreed, saying: “Most young people I approach out on the street are polite and friendly. I think adults should be more mindful about how they approach young people and they will find if they are courteous to them, the youngsters, in the main, are courteous back.”
On the question of ‘Do you think social media has a part to play in anti-social behaviour?’ Keith Prince responded: “I think it does have a large part to play in exacerbating problems. Quite often there is an argument and then the irritation continues through social media which makes it harder to make up.”
Thomas Clarke said: “But social media does have benefits and it can be used as a positive tool.” On the question, ‘Do you think the community in Havering are ageist?’ he said many young people feel they are not being listened to. “There are more older people in Havering and the two groups need to mingle and communicate more as there is often a lack of understanding.” He said people sometimes needed to look at the world through other people’s eyes.
Other questions raised issues such as public transport being made safer, litter on the streets and how the police deal with young people who don’t comply with the Government’s Covid rules.
The questions were sent in by pupils from Hornchurch High School, Coopers Coborn School and Sanders School as well as from students in Havering Colleges.
All agreed it was a brilliant event and helped to forge links between the authorities and young people living in the area.