A Richmond barber who overcame a difficult past has launched a scheme to give young people in crime a way out.
Yasin Hafid set up Pick a Trade Not a Blade following the murders of two young family friends, in a year which has seen the highest number of fatal stabbings in London so far.
The number of offences classified as violence against the person in south west London has risen on average 12.55% per borough in the last year, with the number rising sharply since the start of 2021.
Violence offences have risen in all of the boroughs since the start of this year, most significantly in Kingston, where the number of offences has almost doubled, from 194 in January to 378 in June.
Wandsworth saw the most offences in June, 617 compared to the south west London average of 425.
In Hafid’s home borough of Richmond, there were 289 violent crimes committed in June this year, a number which has been steadily rising throughout 2021.
Although this was the lowest of the boroughs, Hafid was still concerned by the statistics and wanted to do something to reverse them.
Hafid said: “This issue, and I call it a pandemic because it is, it can affect anyone.
“There’s no reason for someone not to push the cause with us, because no matter who you are or where you’ve come from, this could impact your life.
“I thought, you know what Yas, don’t be like the others that are just talking about doing something, actually get up and do it.”
Pick a Trade Not a Blade aims to give individuals a way out of gang culture, knife crime, and drug dealing through offering fully paid jobs and apprenticeships in skilled trades.
The organisation has already helped four young people into work and is rapidly growing its network of employers.
Two young boys were rebelling following the loss of their father, but Hafid found them a job.
He recalled receiving a video message from them after they received their first paycheck.
“They were just going ‘thank you so much Yas, honestly mate you’ve changed our lives’,” said Hafid.
“It’s like every time I do get a success story, I get a proud father moment.
“It’s something special, it really is.”
Hafid felt compelled to act after talking with his barbering clients, many of whom had been personally affected by crime and felt he could use his connections within the community to change the statistics.
He himself battled with mental health growing up and felt disillusioned with education.
“We’ve all been there, we’ve all sort of gone off the rails,” said Hafid.
“Thank God I learnt how to cut hair, because having that skill has got me to the position where I am today.
“Being my own boss allows me to earn such a great sense of relief and it keeps you focused, it keeps you on a path, it enhances self-fulfilment and freedom.
“Being in control of your own destiny is a key factor”.
Hafid believes the key to their success lies in treating people non-judgementally and ensuring they are self-motivated.
The organisation is currently pushing for charity status and has big plans to turn the worrying crime statistics around not only in London, but nationwide.
“We want to keep growing really, and helping save lives,” he added.
Featured image credit: @pickatradenotablade