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Celebrations after 20 Stratford businesses sign up to become havens for youngsters in danger of violence

PUBLISHED: 07:10 04 October 2019 | UPDATED: 07:10 04 October 2019

About 100 people attended the launch at the Stratford Centre. Picture: Jon King

About 100 people attended the launch at the Stratford Centre. Picture: Jon King

Archant

Twenty businesses have pledged to offer their premises as "havens" for younsters in danger of violent crime following a campaign led by school pupils.

St Bon’s student, Tomas Tamasauski. Picture: Jon KingSt Bon’s student, Tomas Tamasauski. Picture: Jon King

The firms based in the Stratford Centre signed up to the City Safe scheme after 60 young people marched through the mall in March in a bid to reclaim the space as one they feel safe in.

St Bon's student, Tomas Tamasauski, 13, said: "Seeing what we've achieved is pretty satisfying. It is good to see what we've done."

The budding campaigners, backed by civic society group Newham Citizens, want to repair relationships between young people, business leaders and the police.

It follows the fatal stabbing of 21-year old Romanian takeaway worker Beniamin Pieknyi in the Stratford Centre in March 2018. Five men were sentenced eight months later.

Det Sgt Ian Bowles, after schoolchildren explained how vulnerable they felt, said: "It breaks my heart.

"We have got to listen to our young people. If we don't, there's no hope. I promise you, we won't let you down."

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Candace Reading, marketing manager at ZAPspace - one of the businesses signed up - said businesses need to play a part in reassuring youngsters they are part of a community.

"Young people need a network of support to help them realise that the future of Newham also belongs to them," she added.

About 100 people were at the scheme's launch on Wednesday, October 2, where leading young campaigners behind the project explained their campaign before receiving certificates.

Newham mayor, Rokhsana Fiaz, said: "You really make me feel immensely proud. I am thrilled by your commitment to showing leadership."

The businesses signed up to the scheme are ZapSpace, 02, Iceland, Bodyshop, Applejacks, Olive and Lemon, Osbon Pharmacy, Baseo, Solomon Ross, Stratford Centre, Barclays, Argos, Broadway Beauty, Poundland, Footlocker, JD, Mexicasa, Illusion, Quality Halal Food Market and The Fragrance Shop.

Stratford Library and St John's Church are also committed to being havens.

On the campaign, Sarah Bonnell deputy headteacher, Joanne Sangster, said: "We want our young girls to grow up to reshape the world as they want it to be and this is one way of doing that."

City Safe was set up after 16-year-old Jimmy Mizen's murder in a bakery near his home in south east London in 2008.

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