The Croydon Guardian takes an in-depth look at the scourge of knife crime afflicting the borough.
Croydon Council's Steve O'Connell vowed the testimonies will help to shape the authority's policy on tackling the growing menace of youths carrying weapons.
Today, the Croydon Guardian brings you each child’s story for the first time, revealing the hidden voices of knife crime in the borough. While the murders of the town’s teenagers make headlines these are the untold stories of real life for young people on the streets of Croydon.
Olivia Bukorenczki, 15, goes to Shirley High School:
“I used to hang around with a group who used to be in a gang. I got myself into trouble and would always argue and have fights.
“But one day a person brought a knife and was waiting outside school for me. I was so scared and was all by myself.
“It made me think if I did not stop I would get killed. If it was not for a passing policeman I would not be here.
“A week later another girl turned up with a broken bottle but again a policeman stopped it.
“When people looked at me they must have seen that I was with those girls – unapproachable and rude.
“There are lots of girl gangs not being tackled. There are the same amount of girls walking around with knives as boys.
“There is nothing for people to do but hang around in groups.
“If children are stereotyped they will act like they are expected to.
“We need lots more patrols outside schools. At the moment they only come after something happens but they should be there all the time.”
Raymond Amoah, 16, goes to Archbishop Lanfranc School:
“Every youth’s main aim is to make money because not every parent can give them the odd £10.
“I used to deal cannabis to get money. I used to rob and steal things and have fun but you find people from a similar life and you end up joining a gang.
“You do things to make money but I’ve seen people stabbed and severely injured.
“I have four brothers and three sisters. Three of my brothers have been in trouble with the police.
“I have seen my brother come home beaten for the colour of his skin and another stabbed because of where he is from.
“Another is in prison for robbery. All this is for the money.
“Adults should give children more job opportunities and training. This will attract other teenagers too. We need to ask what they like doing so they have the chance to do what they want.
“I was part of a gang, but for what? Sometimes there is no explanation.”
Hartwell Mhunduru, 18, used to attend Haling Manor School:
“When I started hanging around with friends we got into lots of trouble. Three close friends are in prison serving three, six and seven-year sentences for robbery and assault.
“I had correct mentors around me to get me through the troubles I was going through.
“I am in pain as only last week I lost a close friend [Oliver Kingonzila] to a stabbing.
“These kids need someone who knows and understands them.
“I understand stop and searches as there are lots of black on black stabbings but maybe something different is needed. I am stopped about four days a week by the same officer and yet the stabbings are still taking place.
“It makes no sense to arrest someone and not punish them. Zero tolerance should mean zero tolerance and people found with knives should go to jail.
“Putting money into youth clubs does not solve the problem. What happens after the hours of 10pm. Children are still running around when the youth workers have gone home.”
Sam Crisp, 16, attends Coulsdon College:
“I thought I was safe carrying a knife but I did not realise how much more dangerous it made things.
“A few years ago a group of boys approached me. They did not want anything from me but started trying to have a fight. Luckily the train came and I ran.
“After a few months I realised carrying a knife did not help. After that I did not carry one.
“But I had another boy come up to me and said he was going to stab me. Thankfully he just told me to watch my back and left.
“I performed in the play Shank to show people what it is like to be caught up in knife crime.
“A kid is stabbed on a tram full of passengers but people are too scared to come forward.
“We wanted the audience to realise going down that route leads to death and a lot of pain.”