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Event to tackle Muslim concerns hailed a success

17-11-2005

By Jenny Clarke

Guardian East London & West Essex:

YOUNG Muslim men spoke openly about problems they experienced in reporting crimes to the police in a groundbreaking conference.

Fears were raised that young people were at risk of taking the law into their own hands because of their past experiences of the police force.

But positive work by Leyton's Safer Neighbour-hoods team is helping to promote better relationships, it was revealed.

The event, organised by youth leaders of the Active Change Foundation, aimed to ease tensions in the community and mark Eid.

It was held at the Al Badr Health and Fitness Centre, Lea Bridge Road.

Cllr Barry Smith, cabinet member for community safety, and ward councillors Farooq Qureshi and Stella Creasy were joined by police officers Sgt Jonathan Mulchrone of Leyton's Safer neighbourhood team, and Insp Graham Lucas of the community and partnership team at the event.

The Waltham Forest Islamic Association was represented by acting president Ashgar Ali and executive committee member Tariq Mahmood.

Hanif Qadir of ACF and Al Badr said: "We have had feedback from the police and the young people and it was a success from both sides.

"Some of the young people are the victims of crime or on the verge of criminality themselves. They were raising genuine concerns and questions to the police.

"It was not constructed. It was hard talk and I believe it helped everyone to get a better understanding of each other's situations."

Disturbing reports came from several young men who claimed officers had made offensive comments during "stop and search" incidents.

One said he had reported an incident where a gang armed with baseball bats broke into his family's shop but police failed to arrive.

He said: "My cousin heard about the attack and he was driving back from Whitechapel. He knew we couldn't get the police to come out so he ended up speeding to get a police car to follow him back. That was the only way we could get attention."

Another man said a gang had mugged his friend. Instead of phoning the police, they had formed a group to find the gang and reclaim the phone.

"We don't feel like the police would listen. They wouldn't bother coming out. We want to stand up for ourselves," the man said.

Sgt Mulchrone and Insp Lucas urged the group to report any complaints about officers to the Police Complaints Commission.

Insp Lucas said: "This is a two-way process. We expect our officers to always give a reason for the stop and search and to record it. We need to know if you have experienced problems because then we can investigate the complaint further. Officers will be weeded out if they have behaved inappropriately."

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