A football tournament aiming to increase engagement and trust between young people and the police will take place on Sunday.
Around 100 young people from across Croydon, Bromley and Lewisham will take part in the KickOff@3 tournament at The Warren in Bromley.
It forms part of the Metropolitan Police Service’s (MPS) commitment to tackle youth violence and officers from Wiltshire Constabulary will also be bringing along a team of young people to take part.
KickOff@3 co-founder and police officer Michael Wallace said: “The idea is it’s a youth diversion strategy but in a positive way, you’ve got multiple communities coming together playing football, playing football in a safe environment, it’s the police and the community coming together in a non-branded way.
“We’re trying to get the young people who wouldn’t normally engage with the police.
“Last year we had some young offenders taking part, and they ended up getting to the final, and the good news is that barring one, who’s since been involved in the initiative, none of them have re-offended.
“The idea is we’re building these relationships and maintaining them, and they’ll remember that positive influence.”So far this year 300 youngsters have taken part in the seven-a-side football tournaments in Waltham Forest, Enfield, Durham and Havering, with tournaments in Hertfordshire, West Midlands, Ealing, Northern Ireland and Southwark remaining.
The winners and runners-up from each tournament will go on to represent their team in the London finals this summer, which will take place on June 17 at the Warren.
Last year, over 600 young people between the ages of 15 and 19 got involved.
They raised £600 and donated the money to the African and Caribbean Leukaemia Trust (ACLT).
In addition, 147 of the young people who attended signed up to the blood stem and bone marrow register.
Mr Wallace said: “It’s not just about the football, it’s about raising awareness and funds for nominated charities.
“In 2015 I met a charity called the ACLT, they gave a presentation about bone marrow donation.
“If I can organise a football tournament, invite young people to attend, then the charity does a small presentation about what the day’s about and how they can support, and then in turn you’re raising awareness and raising funds, and you’ve got the positive youth engagement.
“The nominated charity has to fall under the umbrella of health and well-being.”
KickOff@3 was established by Michael Wallace and Ashley Levien, who runs his own social inclusion project called ‘Suberbos Community’.
Before the start of each tournament, the players and supporters take part in a one-minute silence to remember the young lives that have been lost through knife crime.