Focus: Campaign of the week - 'Ring-a-ding, hide your bling'

Indira Das-Gupta, indira.das-gupta@haynet.com

The Suzy Lamplugh Trust has launched its The Streets Deserve Respect campaign to make young men more aware of the dangers they face on the streets.

Julie Bentley, the trust's chief executive, says: "Some people still think we are a charity for women, which is not the case. The media perpetuates the idea that women are more at risk, but it's actually young men aged between 16 and 24 who are most likely to become victims of crime."

Metropolitan Police figures show that the number of 11 to 15-year-old and 16 to 20-year-old victims of robbery increased by 320 per cent and 296 percent respectively between 1993 and 2003. Three-quarters of all of those victims were male.

Bentley says: "A lot of teenage boys and young men spend time on the streets with their mates, and there's a culture in which violence and aggression are supposed to be more acceptable. Men feel they are not supposed to admit that they feel threatened."

The campaign, which will be launched on Monday to coincide with National Personal Safety Day, deliberately uses language that its target audience can relate to. At the beginning of the year, the Suzy Lamplugh Trust organised a nationwide competition to see which school pupils could come up with the best slogan and safety tips. Some of the winning tips include "It's OK to walk away" and "Ring-a-ding, hide your bling".

The charity deliberately chose more positive-sounding statements. "We don't want to scare young men - they should be having the best time of their lives," Bentley explains. "We just want to give them the skills to protect themselves."

The campaign centres on posters that were designed by an amateur illustrator to imitate the style that is used in many comics. The trust has produced 45,000, which it will be sending out free to schools. To keep costs down, it chose not to hire an agency.

The trust hopes the posters will serve as a starting point, and that schools will introduce their own activities, using drama, music and art to help get across the key messages.

Bentley says: "One of our most important messages is how to use interpersonal skills to defuse certain scenarios. Eventually, we'd like schools to sign up to a personal safety charter that contains key commitments."

The Suzy Lamplugh Trust intends to follow up its campaign with another initiative next year that focuses on London boroughs with high rates of crime.

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