Published 15 July 2019

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Thousands more young people in Kent will be warned of the dangers of becoming involved in gang-related activity, thanks to money from Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Scott.
 
Reformed gang member Francis Osei-Appiah began delivering inspirational talks in local schools in 2017. Now, as one of nine projects to be awarded money from Mr Scott’s Violence Reduction Fund, he will soon be visiting new areas of the county like Dartford where the PCC has identified a lack of provision.
 
Mr Osei-Appiah said:

‘Growing up in north London I had what looked like the perfect family set-up. I was a bright kid and loved playing football on the council estate. But I wasn’t streetwise and I was groomed into joining a gang. Within 18 months I was on trial at the Old Bailey for kidnap. I looked around the courtroom and thought “what I have gotten myself into?”’

While in prison Mr Osei-Appiah knuckled down and studied for a degree. After his release in 2010 he set up the Reform Restore Respect charity to warn young people against making the same mistakes he did.
 
The PCC Mr Scott said:

‘I launched the Violence Reduction Challenge last summer to look at the various types of violent crimes being perpetrated here in Kent and identify what could be done. I found that Kent really is a safe place to live, work and visit but recognised there were steps we could take together to make our county even safer.

‘One of the results of that piece of work was for me to create the Violence Reduction Fund and invite local groups to bid for a share of £1million over three years. Francis has been doing great work in Kent for a number of years, with some support from my office, and I’m delighted he applied into the fund and that we were able to support him again.'

Mr Osei-Appiah’s “I Didn’t Know That” talks will tour the north and west of the county from September. A similar Ashford-based project, Uprising, will educate young people and their parents on the potential impacts of carrying a knife in east Kent.
 
Furthermore, Crimestoppers’ Fearless campaign will deliver messages to 11 to 16 year-olds around the county on street crime and child sexual exploitation.
 
Mr Osei-Appiah added:

‘If I had someone coming into my school when I was young to tell me these things, I think that would have helped me. The PCC’s Violence Reduction Challenge has really led the way in looking at what we can do together.’

The biggest single slice of the PCC’s Violence Reduction Fund money is going to Kent Police to deliver a Mini Cadets scheme in local schools, building on the successful Volunteer Police Cadets scheme which Mr Scott kick-started back in 2016.
 
The PCC added:

‘The Cadets programme for 13 to 17-year-olds has been an overwhelming success. Around 400 young people right across Kent are now involved and there are hundreds more on waiting lists keen to join up. It is great news that Kent Police is extending this positive community engagement to work with even younger schoolchildren going forward.’

All the projects to have received money from the PCC’s Violence Reduction Fund in 2019/20 will receive funding again in 2020/21 and 2021/22 provided they evidence that taxpayers’ money is being used effectively and in accordance with the OPCC’s monitoring processes.
 

  • Mr Osei-Appiah features on Mr Scott’s latest podcast, where he talks about his previous involvement with a London gang and how he subsequently set up the Reform Restore Respect charity.