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A group of Westminster youngsters are ‘comparing notes’ with their counterparts in Spain and Italy on how best to tackle gangs and serious youth violence.

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They are part of a groundbreaking pan-European youth project which will see 20 local teenagers such as Abdel Cheddoud, pictured, design an awareness campaign warning of the dangers of joining a gang and youth violence with others the same age in the coastal town of Pescara in Italy and the rural town of Cordoba in Spain.

Westminster Council has joined forces with not-for-profit organisation Inclusion to get the project, called Youth Secure Streets, off the ground in London, boosted by a €400,000 injection from the European Commission’s Justice Department.

Those taking part in each country work with others via an online blog with a translation tool, creating a new anti-violence campaign for their peers, to be launched next month.

Most of them will have previously been involved in, or affected by, serious youth violence in their area and will lend their personal insight into how best to deter others from violent and anti-social behaviour.

Group member Abdel Cheddoud, 17, from Queen’s Park, said he was attracted to the project because young people were in the driving seat.

“We have experienced gangs so we know what the issues are and how to speak to people who are maybe thinking of joining a gang,” he said.

“Our main message is that you have a choice, and choices are what makes us. If you’re being controlled by your friends, we want to say you’re your own person with your own choices.”

He added: “By working on this project I have managed to get involved with people I didn’t know. There are certain barriers with getting to know young people from different areas, as you all have different experiences. But we’ve found that we can work together if we listen to each other and compromise.”

The campaign will see the group produce printed adverts, posters, leaflets, a youth magazine and newspaper, and radio and video products.

It should improve their writing, marketing, web and design skills, and they will also have opportunities to do work experience placements and accredited training at several of the organisations involved in the project.

The group is also working with a ‘taskforce’ of community representatives, from local councillors and police to schools, residents and youth organisations, with help from Westminster Council.

Cllr Nickie Aiken, Westminster Council’s cabinet member for children, young people and community protection, said of the YUS project: “Gangs and street violence certainly aren’t unique to London or the UK – they’re an issue that affects countries and communities around the world.

“By putting our heads together with different countries and different types of cities and towns we can get a fresh insight on how to tackle the problem, what works and why, and how different sorts of urban environments affect levels of gangs and violence.”

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