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Cab aid to ease gang fear

PUBLISHED: 18:13 14 May 2008 | UPDATED: 14:46 25 August 2010

A HEADTEACHER has been forced to send pupils home in taxis amid fear that Somalian youths are being targeted by gangs.

A HEADTEACHER has been forced to send pupils home in taxis amid fear that Somalian youths are being targeted by gangs.

Tricia Jaffe, headteacher of Kidbrooke School, said there was a perception the potential young victims were members of rival groups.

And when a Charlton gang was rumoured to be active nearby, she took the decision to pay for children to get home by cab. She said: "It is not because they have done anything or have said anything, but just because they are Somalian.

"That is the perception that has grown over the last year to 18 months."

Mrs Jaffe said her pupils worry about going out alone but feel safe in school.

The headteacher said there was a 'ludicrous' idea growing that all Somalians are connected to the Woolwich Boys gang, believed to have a large Somalian membership.

She added: "Somalians do appear to be being targeted but I don't think it's racial. It's more where you live. It's an estate based thing."

But Somalian residents in Woolwich say there is a growing assumption that they are linked to crime or gangs, which has resulted in a number of violent assaults this year alone. A 24-year-old Somalian from Woolwich was stabbed three times in the back by youths as he walked home from a friend's house in Charlton, last February, leaving him in a coma. His brother, who cannot be named for legal reasons, said: "He was beaten just for being a Somalian. Somalians are easily identifiable so people can pick on them. Our community in Woolwich is being portrayed as criminals and not worthy people."

One of the problems for the community, he said, was that many victims in Woolwich cannot speak English so they do not report incidents to the police. He added: "Why can't the Somalian community fight this? People think they are all bad so they are easily targeted."

Chris Jarrett, Greenwich police borough commander, said: "Different sorts of youngsters are being singled out for their ethnic background where they come from, if it's believed they belong to a certain group."

jules.cooper@archant.co.uk

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