Wishful thinking about police tactics won’t stop young Londoners being killed

Forget stop and search, to tackle knife crime we should talk about youth cuts


While Boris Johnson, Teresa May and the Met police argue about stop and search and knife crime, they’re not talking about the youth services being cut back by councils.

A frank and honest discussion about knife crime needs to be had so that a strategic approach and real investment can be used to tackle the problem.

Given that knife crime is one of the Met’s seven key priorities, it is baffling that the Mayor has been so ineffective at combating this issue. Knife crime has been on the rise again since 2013 and in 2015 15 young people were killed.

Media headlines and intelligence from the police would have us believe gang related criminals are both the main perpetrators and victims of knife attacks. The reality is that only a small proportion of knife crime is gang related – 80 per cent of cases are unrelated to gangs.

Despite this admission from the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime, Boris has directed most of the limited resources to anti-gang and gang-exit programmes.

This year the Green Party Group put forward amendments in the London Assembly’s budget process.We would put £17.1 million of the revenues raised from our council tax proposals towards a new approach to tackling this problem.

A large part of this would enable the Met Police to step in and support youth organisations critical to tackling knife crime that are facing funding cuts from their councils.

It would also pay for extra police officers and staff to visit and develop relationships with schools, colleges and youth groups, and youth workers in A&E departments and walk-in health centres.

In the London Assembly chamber, I asked a direct question to the mayor.

I am sure you know, Mr Mayor, that most councils are making quite large cuts to their youth services in response to the savage Government cuts to their general grants.  I was just wondering if you feel that the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) is ever going to be capable of tackling knife crime while councils are closing youth centres and youth clubs and laying off youth workers?

The Mayor told me I was ‘making a very good point’. He went on,

I am concerned about provision for young people in this city and I totally accept that.  We live in straitened financial times. We need to make sure that we do as much as possible to keep our young kids occupied, keep them on the path to employment and keep them in with great projects that can give them all the things that we want to steer them away from things like knife crime.

Youth services are a priority and should be funded and supported accordingly. Too often I hear community organisations and youth workers are at threat of closure due to short contracts and overly demanding outcome-based criteria.

Of course, it is hard to quantify success when a youth worker intervenes with a young person and stops them from carrying a knife. It’s also unquantifiable, in terms of government funding, if a community organisation improves the mind-set of hundreds of young people, if they don’t already have a criminal record. Yet these things change society for the better.

The Met have gone after criminals and gang members and have made positive strides, but what about the other 80 per cent?  The young people at risk of being victims to or drawn into knife crime are being neglected and further marginalised from authorities.

The Mayor is doing very little to curb the irreversible damage that this will cause for the city.

 Jenny Jones AM is a member of the Green Party Group in the London Assembly

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