'Safe havens' scheme for youngsters expands across London

A scheme for shops and public buildings in London to become "safe havens" for youngsters who are at risk or being chased has been extended.

Up to 300 businesses in 18 London boroughs signed up to CitySafe which began in Lewisham after 16-year-old Jimmy Mizen's murder in 2008.

Shops signed up to the London Citizens scheme will give refuge to youngsters and report every incident to police.

Tessa Jowell, Dulwich and West Norwood MP, has donated £100,000 to the scheme.

Rallies organised by London Citizens will be held in 18 boroughs on Saturday, including in Croydon and Ealing - areas which were hit by riots last August - calling for "100 Days of Peace" to launch the CitySafe scheme.

The project reflects the ancient Greek tradition of providing safe haven for revellers 50 days either side of the Olympics, and London 2012 has signed up to the pledge.

CitySafe was set up after Jimmy's murder in a bakery close to his home in Lee, south-east London. His father Barry backs London Citizens, part of the Citizens UK group.

'Risky business'

Neil Jameson, lead organiser of London Citizens, said: "There will be a sticker in the window of a shop or a public building which indicates they are registered with us and the police as a safe haven.

"It is a risky business, but the consequence of having that sticker is substantial.

"Obviously the most dramatic thing is that they do rescue or offer sanctuary to young people being chased. More significantly it changes the relationship of the trader with the shoppers."

Sgt David Hawtin, from the Metropolitan Police's Safer Neighbourhood team in Crofton Park, said: "They know that within this community if there's any problem for them [youngsters], if they are in any type of trouble, then a lot of shopkeepers have signed up for the pledge and they know that they can go into that shop and the shopkeeper will phone the police for them straight away."

Ms Jowell donated £100,000 to the scheme from the compensation she received from News International for phone hacking.

She said: "I think if this programme can grow in the years ahead it will offer protection to young people who find themselves at risk. [It] will create more resilience, more strength in communities of London."

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