ENFIELD: Stab vests sales prompt fears of "arms race"
Fears of an escalating “arms race” of weapons and protective gear have been sparked after a shop started selling stab proof vests.
Direct Boot, based in Hertford Road, Enfield, has sold nearly a thousand vests in six months and is promoting the product on 80 billboards across north and east London.
According to shopowner Mark Cooper, one headteacher of a nearby school asked the company to take a board down because it was upsetting the children.
Pictures of the vests, which can be legally sold to anyone regardless of their age, have been seen in Silver Street, Edmonton, and in Blackhorse Lane, Walthamstow, and show a young man in a stab vest against a background of blades, a needle and a bullet.
The move was condemned by Enfield North MP Joan Ryan and Walthamstow MP Neil Gerrard.
Ms Ryan said: “We need to listen to people like our head teachers. An arms race between knives and stab vests is not the solution and definitely not the way to deal with knife crime among our young people.”
Francois Mudianga, father of Louis Boduka, who was stabbed to death by a teenager wearing a stab vest in January, said: "If they are selling to police that's fine, but if they are selling to criminals and youths in gangs that's not good."
"I know some parents who have bought stab-proof vests for their children because they think it is not safe. I also saw an advert in Tottenham for a stab proof vest. I did not feel safe. As a dad and as a victim it is not good to feel like that."
Mr Cooper said the vests were all Home Office approved and usually sold to the police, security companies, and courts. "We don't sell to children. I have never ever had a child come here and ask for one, though I have had children look at them because they are curious," he added.
He also said he had the name and address of everyone who had ever bought one because he was "legally responsible" to see the vest did the job it was meant to.
Walthamstow MP Neil Gerrard said: "It worries me on a number of fronts. (Wearing one) may give somebody a false sense of security. Secondly what is to stop gang members from buying them, and thirdly we could have someone who is in a gang who is not just tooled up with a knife but is wearing a stab vest as well."