Scores of worried parents are buying body armour for their
children in a desperate attempt to keep them safe as street
A firm that supplies stab- and bullet-proof vests to government
agencies around the world has sold 60 jackets, at a cost of
between £300 to £425, to concerned parents who have
flooded the company with inquiries after several murders of
teenagers on London streets.
The company has received more than 100 calls from parents in
the capital over the past few weeks. The company, VestGuard
UK, usually gets one or two calls of this type per year.
The fatal stabbings of Adam Regis, killed three days after
16-year-old Kodjo Yenga, are the latest in a series of violent
incidents involving teenagers in recent months.
One mother, whose 13-year-old daughter goes to a school where
a pupil has been shot to death, has saved up to buy her child
of the best vests available after she was targeted by a gang of
older girls. She is now saving up for another vest for her 11-year-old
daughter who has also been abused by the gang.
Too scared to give her or her daughter’s real name, the
woman, a chemical engineer, explained why she felt she had to
resort to buying body armour.
“My daughter is being attacked by girls who are much
older than her and the problem is continuing. I have never seen
them with a knife but you never know when they are going to
use a gun or knife until it is too late.
“The vest is very expensive and we do not have a lot
of money but I have no choice. My daughter has been attacked
five times in a few weeks and I would rather be safe than sorry.
“I cannot let my child go out and be killed. I will do
anything I can do defend her. She does not like wearing the
vest and says it is heavy but I force her to wear it - I said
‘life comes first’.
The mother has been to the police but nothing has happened.
“They are really busy and I know that and by the time
they get here the gang has gone. I am now consulting a solicitor
and will go to my MP."
Shaun Ward, the sales director at VestGuard UK, said that the
volume of calls had been unprecedented.
“We sell body armour to the Ministry of Defence police,
foreign office, embassy protection teams and specialised police
units around the world but in the past several weeks parents
have started getting in touch with us asking to buy vests for
“They are concerned by what is happening on the streets
- the level of violence. A 13-year-old girl has been our youngest
customer but most are about 15 or 16. Most of the calls have been
“The 13-year-old’s mother bought the most expensive
vest we have, it will stop a bullet from a 45 Magnum but it
is the lightest one we have.
“We have a factory in Bolton and since Christmas we have
been making really small vests that have a 28” chest and
weigh 800 grams. The children have been mostly boys, but there
are a few girls.”
The firm, who have sales of £31 million a year, say the
light stab-proof vests will stop anything up to the force of
a crossbow. A kevlar soft armour plate is put into the vests,
the level of safety they provide depends on how much you spend.
The cheapest version will stop any knife attack while the higher
end will stop a bullet from any handgun or sub-machine gun.
Last month, at a gun crime summit at Downing Street, senior police
officers from London and Manchester gave warning that the perpetrators
and victims of gun crime were becoming younger.
Mike Todd, the Chief Constable of Greater Manchester, said:
"We have got 14 and 15-year-old kids walking around in
body armour. And we have 13-year-olds where, when we do house
searches, we find Section 1 firearms in their houses because
they are being used to hold them"
In London last month three teenagers were shot in less than
a fortnight, including one who was shot in his bed by gunmen
who broke into his home.
David Davis, the Shadow Home Secretary, said: “The fact
parents are having to resort to spending large amounts of money
on such drastic measures betrays the Government’s failure
to get a grip on violent crime.
“This is a consequence of having very little police presence
on our streets and in our communities to detect and deter violent
crime. While our police are tied up in red tape innocent children
are having to wear police equipment to protect themselves. This
is a very sad reflection on society under new Labour.”
Camila Batmanghelidjh, who works with disadvantaged children
at the charity Kids Company, says she can fully understand the
parents' concern and warns that street violence is only going
to get worse.
“I see kids of nine who are drug dealing and by ten they
are carrying knives, that is not unusual. I have been doing
this for eleven years and things at street level are definitely
“I don’t think vests are a solution as you can
get stabbed or shot in the neck.”
Ms Batmanghelidjh, who was recently shot at in a drive-by shooting,
added: “The violence is going to get worse. The Government
thinks it is a policing problem but it is a social problem and
the social services are at breaking point.
“A robust solution is needed or the street violence is
going to have a huge impact on civil disorder.”