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Top footie club launches youth anti-crime scheme

PUBLISHED: 17:40 13 August 2008 | UPDATED: 15:10 25 August 2010

PARENTS of teenagers slain on London s streets have praised plans for football coaches to warn youths about the horrors of street crime.

PARENTS of teenagers slain on London's streets have praised plans for football coaches to warn youths about the horrors of street crime.

Charlton Athletic FC (Addicks) plans to send trainers to schools in Bexley, Bromley, Greenwich and North Kent to use the 'power of football' to urge children away from violence.

The club's community chief executive Jason Morgan announced the Street Violence Ruins Lives scheme last Saturday, claiming "youngsters respond far more positively to someone in a tracksuit".

Lee Hitchcock, mother of Penge teenager Ben, 16, who was killed in Beckenham in a gang attack in June 2007 said: "Someone like a football coach they might listen to, especially at a sports college like Ben's. I think it's a great initiative."

The mother said Ben and his bothers Jake, 13 and Louis, 11, both at Kelsey Park Sports College, would see sportsmen as "more on their wavelength" than police.

She added: "The more that can be done to teach kids about street crime the better.

"There can't be enough because the politicians certainly are not doing enough about it."

The scheme has also been endorsed by Sally Knox, the mother of 18-year-old Rob Knox, who was fatally knifed outside Metro, in Station Road, Sidcup on May 24.

Youth worker Francis Haffner, 19, from Abbey Wood, thought the scheme would help teens but said there is still not enough youth work in south-east London.

Mr Haffner, who used to hang around with gangs and carry a knife, now runs youth arts project At Risk Of Offending, usually held at Woolwich's N-Tyce nightclub.

He said: "Kids with dreams to be footballers will be excited, but football won't be the only thing that youths have an interest in.

"There need to be more options available, especially for girls. They often get left out."

The scheme will be officially launched at the Addick's home game against Reading FC next Saturday (23).

CAFC players will warm up with t-shirts supporting the project, and their strip will now feature a Street Violence Ruins Lives arm patch (pictured).

The club is currently bidding for central government funding for the project. jules.cooper@archant.co.uk

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