April 16 2014 Latest news:
by Melissa York
Friday, November 16, 2012
Staff at Newham College received an education in the secretive world of youth gangs from a former member turned campaigner.
Sheldon Thomas was invited to the East Ham Campus on October 25 to give a presentation to faculty members about how to spot and stop students turning into gang members.
He said: “Teachers are not equipped to deal with it. They need to be trained up.”
Sheldon was a gang member in the 1970s but he broke away to form a faith-based organisation called Gangsline in 2009 - dedicated to eradicating the root causes of youth gangs in Newham and Barking & Dagenham.
Gangsline estimates there are about 350 gang members in Newham, four of which are thought to be leaders, whose main activities are selling drugs, guns, and engaging in violence.
Sheldon said: “In 1976, when I was a gang member, I had a certain what you could call moral ethics. I wouldn’t rape a girl or commit a crime on Sunday.
“Today, they don’t respect women, they shoot mothers and torture people. And it’s not true to say that a gang member will stop the violence if he has a job.”
The Home Office has given Gangsline a grant so teams can visit prisons, hospitals, schools, and work with youth offending teams and religious leaders in east London over the next 12 months.