This post was first published by Croydon Advertiser on 21/08/2017.
The barbershop owner trying to steer Croydon kids away from knife crime
Barbershop owners should use their businesses to guide young people away from violence, according to one Selhurst barber hoping to stop the number of knife crime offences in Croydon rising further.
Raymond Robb, the 37-year-old owner of Ray’s Barbers, in Whitehorse Lane, has organised a community peace cup, bringing together staff and customers from six barbershops in and around Croydon to compete in a football tournament.
The aim is to bridge gaps between generations and unite the community to tackle the social reasons believed to be behind a recent spike in knife crime offences.
Raymond, a dad-of-four, says barbershops can be vital places where adults can educate young people, and act as an “integral” part of the community.
He believes it is crucial to positively influence boys between the ages of 11 to about 16, when they are most vulnerable.
He said: “It’s a trusted environment as a lot of young people come to the barber shop as their parents have brought them there when they were young.
“If there’s a lack of fathers in the community, what tends to happen is that these young men are drawn to other men.
“A barbershop tends to be a male-dominated environment so the men then [should] take it as their responsibility to make sure they speak to these young men and mentor them.”
Raymond says he does everything he can to be a positive role model for his young customers.
He added: “We share wisdom to deter them from violence and crime or give them insight into adulthood or give them some sort of counselling in the chair so they understand life and make the right decisions.”
As well as cutting hair himself, Raymond decided to open a hairdressing academy, to train young men in the trade.
“I thought I may as well give something back to the community,” said Raymond, who has owned the barber’s for the last five years.
“The problem is that some of the them don’t have money to pay for something like that so I ended up giving it for free and sacrificing my time just to make sure they get something.
“I’ve seen the results from the academy where we’ve intercepted and guys have gone on [with one becoming] a radiologist.
“There’s great potential but a lack of belief and that’s what’s killing a lot of these guys. They don’t have great hope in their future and their ability.”
A barbers’ in Thornton Heath was ordered to close last month due to “ongoing antisocial behaviour and suspected criminal activity”.
And earlier this month a South Norwood hairdressers’ that was being used as an unlicensed nightclub was shut down by Croydon Council.
Raymond accepts there are the “odd one or two” barbershops in Croydon which are associated with antisocial behaviour, but emphasises that they are a minority.
“It depends on the reputation on the barber, if the barber has a good reputation he tends to be the peacemaker within the community,” Raymond explained.
“The majority of the barbershops don’t have [a bad] reputation, but there are a few that do. Most of the guys that have these barbershops know that it’s bad practice and it’s not good business ethics to have people hanging around in their shops smoking or having parties and stuff.”
With seven other men, Raymond has set up the LIONS Society which is working with young men in a bid to divert them away from violence.
The group, which works alongside community group Another Night of Sisterhood (ANOS), receives no funding and will be paying the majority of the costs of staging the football tournament on September 3 out of their own pockets, with the rest coming from any money they manage to raise.
At the event there will also be professional advice where youngsters can discuss drug abuse, mental health, back to work schemes and mentoring.
It is being held at Croydon Sports Arena, in South Norwood, between 12.30pm and 6pm.
To get involved, call Raymond at Ray’s Barbers on 07946 323087.