talkRADIO’s Matthew Wright brought together three guests with intimate knowledge of knife crime to discuss what can be done to tackle the crisis.
With last year recording the highest levels of knife-related deaths since records began in 1946, Matthew’s guests discussed the need for community funding, the legacy of stop and search, and Sajid Javid’s new knife crime prevention orders.
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Former deputy mayor: “There are no easy solutions”
Stephen Greenhalgh. Image: Getty
Stephen Greenhalgh became the first deputy mayor for policing and crime under Boris Johnson in 2012.
“There are no easy solutions, but my sense is we need to start with prevention. There’s never enough money that can be spent on youth preventative projects and mental health projects.
“I also want to see more preventative policing, not just a focus on going first to enforcement and arrest, as that just leads to a recycling of the problem. The knife prevention orders proposed by the Home Secretary shouldn’t be thrown around like confetti.
“The reality is crime is not that complicated, it’s people, places and problems. If we look at other cities that have seen a massive reduction in crime, preventative policing means getting loads of cops into hotspot areas to stop criminal acts.
“What I will say is government is unbelievingly inefficient and incredibly frustrating for me to watch. A lot of the money spent gets lost in bureaucracy and the reality is we need to think not only about the money but also how government can be more efficient to get that money to the front line.”
Former gang member: “the community needs to take responsibility”
Last year saw fatal stabbings reach the highest level since records began in 1946. Image: Getty
A former gang member, Sheldon Thomas is the founder and chief executive of Gangsline, a non profit organisation that works with young people involved with gangs.
“I think we have a government just clutching at straws trying to come up with a quick answer, but this problem is a long-term problem.
“I sometimes think the government and police are not operating in the same reality. They think if you do a lot of stop and search then they’ll get these numbers but actually the gang members are smart, they just move to the next level and the next level is already with us, with ten-year-olds selling drugs and 12-year-olds carrying weapons from one place to another.
“You need to have police who are willing to engage with the community in a constructive way, because the way police engage with black kids and poor white kids is completely too office-like, it’s not enough relationship-like. We need to train officers around relationship building which makes young people respect the police more than they are.
“The communities also do not face their responsibility that you have to maintain control and order in your own house. If your child is 12 years-old and hanging out with 18 year-olds who don’t go to school and whose sole purpose is gang activity, how long until they groom them into that lifestyle?"
Victims mother: "We need an emergency response"
Police investigators at Marcus Lipton Youth Club in Brixton, where a young man was killed on Thursday. Image: Getty
Pastor Lorraine Jones’ son Dwayne was killed just short of his 21st birthday in 2014 while trying to break up a fight. She has founded the boxing project Dwaynamics to help children on Brixton’s Angell Town estate.
“Dwayne was very much like me aware of the challenges in the community and he had such a compassionate heart that he often cried at the lack of facilities for younger people. He would often tell me that they were vulnerable, there’s nothing to do and that’s why they’re getting into gangs.
“To be quite honest I find it very sickening that Sajid Javid can be bringing these knife prevention orders out out at this level of critical issues that we’re facing. We need an emergency response to prevent this disease, that’s where the bulk of the work needs to go.
“My heart breaks for the majority of children who are not affiliated with gangs who have to suffer the ripple effects of young boys dying on their neighbourhood streets in cold blood. We need safe spaces for children to come and engage and be children.”