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Charities turn to text to tackle gangs

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Two organisations in Southwark are launching an SMS service designed to help people in gangs or those affected by gang crime.

Launched in response to community concerns about gang crime and violence, the Gangs Advice Training and Exit Strategy (GATES) project will provide two free services, a text alert service and a telephone advice line.

A joint initiative between Victim Support Southwark and youth agency Kickstart, the scheme will kick off in earnest over the first weekend of August 2007 after a soft launch at the end of July.

Pat Green, borough director at Victim Support Southwark told GC News on 2 August 2007: "The text service aims to inform young people about events that are going on in the community, while the advice line gives people information about youth services available in the borough."

Subscribers will receive two free texts a week, which could be in the form of an alert, a poll, or a competition. Examples of alerts might include:

  • Kickstart Youth Inclusion programme is providing free sports training for young people aged 16-24. Call...
  • After the recent shooting a community meeting will be held at...

Meanwhile, surveys might include questions such as: "If you owned a gun and Southwark ran a gun amnesty would you deposit your gun?" and "Do you feel safe in Southwark?"

According to Green, the polls facility will also help agencies gauge what the "temperature" is like among young people in terms of these issues, while also making the service a two-way communication tool.

Running alongside the text service, a free advice line will provide information and guidance to people who are concerned about gang activity or who have fallen into the wrong crowd and do not how to break free. People wishing to remain anonymous can do so, as the services do not require users to give their name or address.

Abi Goodwin of Kickstart said: "The GATES service will not only provide advice on leaving a gang and crime prevention, it will also highlight free sports and social programmes that young people can get involved with.

"However, the GATES services are designed to help the whole community, from young people in gangs to all those affected by gang crime, including family members, local residents, teachers and community leaders."

Anita Reid, serious and violent crime caseworker at Victim Support Southwark, added: "Recent events in London have caused a growing concern about gang crime in the local community. The text alert service will allow them to receive and retain information that can help them avoid and escape gang crime."

This article was originally published at Kablenet.

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