Preston youngsters' hard-hitting film highlights the danger of teenage gangs and knife crime

Children as young as 14 are looking over their shoulders in fear of being stabbed.

Wednesday, 18th March 2020, 5:00 pm
Updated Wednesday, 18th March 2020, 5:03 pm
Members of YOOOFZone, in Lune Street, Preston, have teamed up with The Prince's Trustand UCLan to create a film about teenagegangs and knife crime.

That is the alarming message of a Preston 16-year-old, who is part of a group of youngsters highlighting the dangers of knife crime.

The Larches resident, who wishes to remain anonymous, is a member of YOOOF Zone, in Lune Street, Preston, which has teamed up with The Prince's Trust and UCLan to create a film about teenage gangs.

He said: “Knife crime is high in the UK, and postcode wars are a problem, particularly in Preston. Even young kids are carrying knives.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Stephen Mellor launched the YOOOF Zonelast March.

“They call themselves gangs but in my eyes, they’re lost people. They don’t know what else to do but cause trouble.

“They might owe money for drugs, be on a different estate, or get into the wrong crowd.

"Something so little can trigger an attack. I’ve seen people get jumped by groups of up to 10 people or battered for owing someone £10. It’s always over silly things."

The teenager knows all too well how terrifying knife crime can be, having come face-to-face with it himself.

“I was walking with a friend when someone tried to rob him. But we wouldn’t let them, so they got out a knife and started chasing us with it," he said.

“After that, we only went out in twos for a while, in case it happened again.”

But many teens accept such violence as part of life, he says, adding: “Once it happens to you, you think about it for a week or two but then try to carry on with life.”

The former pupil of Ashton Community Science College says people as young as 14-years-old are looking over their shoulders due to postcode wars - a conflict over territory between gangs in neighbouring areas. Such rivalries normally begin with derogatory comments on social media but can result in deaths and innocent members of the public being injured.

He said: "You have to watch yourself because of where you’ve been brought up. I’ve never seen someone from another estate on mine because of postcode wars.

“It’s a very big problem in my eyes. There’s so much trouble and you can’t go into other estates in Preston because of where you’re from, even if you have friends there.

“The result could be stabbings, house-robbing, and people frowning at you wherever you go.”

It is an issue happening everywhere in Preston all the time and makes you feel like you don’t belong anywhere, he adds.

“There’s always something happening. It’s one of those things you can’t get away from," he said.

He believes youngsters should be educated by people who have lived through it in order to fully understand the devastating consequences of being involved in drugs or carrying a weapon.

Someone who fits the bill is convicted killer Stephen Mellor, who launched the YOOOF Zone last March. Stephen joined a gang at 18 and was involved in the fatal stabbing of rival gang member John Dookie.

Determined to turn his life around, he set up the youth club to help keep others on the right path.

The Post's 16-year-old source: “It has a nice atmosphere. It shows you don’t have to sit on the streets and smoke and do drugs. There’s an alternative. It’s had an impact on everyone who comes here. It’s a place to go and be safe, rather than looking over your shoulder.

“Prince’s Trust has also helped me to get my head straight and meet people from other estates. We sit and talk, and there’s no arguing. It’s always civil."

But he says youths who decide to do the right thing and hand knives into the police need more reassurance that they won't get in trouble.

He admits he has never heard of anonymous knife bins before, which is why the team is so passionate about creating a film that speaks to young people.

In this fictional tale, written by YOOOF Zone members and supported by The Food Warehouse and Larches and Savick Boxing Club, he plays a debt collector who works for a gangster and confronts someone who owes money.

He said: “It shows how easy it is to stab someone. It can escalate quickly. As soon as you pick up a knife and put it in your pocket, you feel you’ve got to use it. Even using a fake knife in the film gave us a sense of power - but it’s not a good power.

"Carrying knives isn’t big or clever. Youths try to act big in front of their friends to try to impress them and fit in with the ‘olders’ - the older people from the estate. But friends like you for you, not for what you’re carrying.

“Some young people think it’s just a game but it’s not. People have lost their lives. It destroys families. There’s no good ending to it."