BY JAMES TWOMEY
A trainer and clothing shop is offering a safe space for young people to get off the streets to avoid crime and violence.
Crep Select, in Lewisham shopping centre, has been inviting people to get creative and design footwear, make music or create videos in the shop.
Owner Lawrence Roulland, who went to school with Jimmy Mizen – a 16-year-old murdered on the street Lawrence lived in in 2008 – said he felt guilty he had not managed to do something for his community before now – and that is what inspired him to set up the space.
Lawrence said: “We’re a trusted voice and have a good relationship with these young kids, given that we are a street fashion shop, our demographic and customer base is people aged 14-25 and we are in touch with negative elements of the street.
“We hear negative stuff from these kids, too much sometimes, and try to provide a positive atmosphere for them.
“The problem is all youth clubs are shut, there was one near here called Baseline which shut at the same time I opened my shop, I always kind of thought my shop could be a safe space for people to come and not just a shop.”
According to Youth First – a community benefit society that is partnered with Lewisham council – Lewisham has the highest proportion of children and young people living in deprivation in England and there are now five youth centres for the whole borough of Lewisham.
Crep Select is a member of the Safe Haven For Jimmy network, set up by Jimmy Mizen’s parents, that helps provide safe spaces for young people.
Victoria Atkins, the minister for crime, safeguarding and vulnerability, attended the store with Jimmy Mizen’s father, Barry Mizen.
Ms Atkins said: “The recent senseless killings that have snatched young lives away have rightly shocked the country.
“I’m glad to see this week of action, involving every police force in England and Wales, which will take more deadly weapons off our streets.
“We are determined to protect our children, families and communities from these devastating crimes. Our Serious Violence Strategy combines early intervention and strong law enforcement which, with support from our partners, can help prevent more victims of knife crime.”
Lawrence said: “There’s not enough mentors saying you don’t need to be a gangster for success, we need to be telling them that’s a failure. We need to hear more encouragement to do other things like make music or YouTube videos, I think the perception of masculinity is in the wrong place and people don’t want to pursue things because their mates will laugh at them.
“We help kids come up with ideas and figure out how they can promote their brands and give them an understanding of how hard they have to work, we almost forget we’re meant to be selling trainers.
“Luckily I never got pulled away from fashion and music by the street, though pretty much all of my mates got involved in that. Loving fashion and music kept me away from that, never made me a lot of money but I got by without being sucked into something stupid.
“This last year I’m finally able to give something back.”