SHOPKEEPERS in Shepherd's Bush were asked to turn their shops into shelters for attacked or threatened people in a bid to use community strength to tackle crime.
Volunteers from West London Citizens action group took to the Shepherd's Bush streets on Saturday to try and encourage traders to turn their shops into 'safe havens'.
The City Safe project, which has already been rolled out across south London, sees shops putting themselves forward as a place where someone being threatened or attacked can turn for help.
They say dozens of shopkeepers were keen on the idea but that many are trading in fear as they cope with the day-to-day levels of violence and crime in and around Shepherd's Bush Green.
One shopkeeper, who asked not to be named, told the Chronicle: “We don't like to open after 7.30pm because it can get so bad around here. There are so many people drunk or high on drugs that come in and they can often be abusive and aggressive. Fights break out all the time in the street.”
West London Citizens volunteer Emma Maxwell said: “We were quite surprised to hear just how bad the situation can be for shopkeepers in Shepherd's Bush. One shopkeeper, who works for a major chain, said he had moved from Ealing recently to the area and that it was as bad as he had ever seen.”
The City Safe scheme was launched in response to the murder of 16-year-old Jimmy Mizen in Lee Green in May 2008 and there are currently more than 400 Safe Havens in the capital.
“The aim is to bring the community together and also identify shops that might be willing to act as 'safe-havens' – places where someone being threatened on the street could turn for help,” added Ms Maxwell.
“It was a motivating experience. Many of the shopkeepers were happy to meet local people keen to improve our shared neighbourhood and some even said they would be interested in becoming a 'safe haven' straight away.
“No member of staff would expected to put themselves at risk by getting physically involved in any situation. Often just an adult calling for help is enough.”
Volunteers will return to the area next month to continue working with shopkeepers before rolling out the scheme fully later in the year.