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Newham youth worker 'felt like a criminal' after being stopped and searched 20 times

PUBLISHED: 15:03 04 April 2019 | UPDATED: 14:33 05 April 2019

Besarta Ternava shared her experience of being stopped and searched by police. Picture: JON KING

Besarta Ternava shared her experience of being stopped and searched by police. Picture: JON KING

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A youth worker claiming she was stopped and searched up to 20 times has said the experience made her feel like a criminal.

UEL chair of governors, Geoff Thompson MBE and youth development consultant, Arfa Butt. Picture: JON KINGUEL chair of governors, Geoff Thompson MBE and youth development consultant, Arfa Butt. Picture: JON KING

Besarta Ternava joined young people from across the borough at a public meeting about youth violence at the Education Links free school in High Street South, East Ham, on Wednesday.

Besarta, who works in Forest Gate, said: “I’ve been searched 15 to 20 times in five years.

“It made me feel like a criminal. For me it was unnecessary. It made me feel like a target. I want to feel safe from the dangerous people out there, but also from the police.”

Det Sup Zena Marshall from Newham CID admitted stopping and searching people for weapons was controversial.

Youngsters from Sarah Bonnell school shared their stories about growing up in Newham. Picture: JON KINGYoungsters from Sarah Bonnell school shared their stories about growing up in Newham. Picture: JON KING

“We need to make sure we target the right people. But body worn footage [of stop and searches] shows us the challenges police face as well,” DS Marshall said.

Representatives from St Bonaventure’s, St Antony’s Catholic Primary, NewVIc, Community Links, Education Links, Lister, Sarah Bonnell and the University of East London were at the meeting to discuss how to make the borough safer.

Youngsters joined a civil society youth commission backed by The East London Citizens Organisation (TELCO), a civil society group.

They surveyed 500 pupils who told them Stratford and Forest Gate were places they felt least safe with gangs targeting chicken shops to groom youngsters.

The young activists offered a range of measures to increase safety including improving relationships with police and setting up a group to monitor stop and search with student members.

Others included Newham Council investigating school exclusions, which some say put youngsters at greater risk of getting into trouble.

UEL chair of governors, Geoff Thompson MBE, vowed: “These are not going to be recommendations that will be left in a report.”

An audience of about 50 then heard stories from young people sharing their experiences of growing up in Newham.

The final meeting of Newham Civil Society Youth Commission. Picture: JON KINGThe final meeting of Newham Civil Society Youth Commission. Picture: JON KING

One Year 8 girl from Sarah Bonnell described a man yelling at her and shoving her into trollies as she was coming out of Morrisons in Stratford.

She said: “Nobody helped me. I thought it was a racial or religious thing. There are many intimidating factors in Newham. I hope this can change.”

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