As a London-based charity, JAN Trust has been shocked to witness the dramatic rise in knife crime that has occurred across the capital in the past year. To date, 9 people have been killed in the capital in 2017 and nationally knife crime is at the highest levels since 2011.
And this is without even considering the hundreds of people injured in such attacks. In the 12 months until March this year, this figure was 2028. In Kings College Hospital in London, one surgeon notes that 25% of the trauma injuries they see are directly related to knife crime.
While this is an issue across the country, Met office figures show that in the past year in London gun and knife crime have both risen particularly sharply – by 42% and 24% respectively.
A Metropolitan police report released last month indicated that between 2014 and 2016 the number of children carrying knives in London schools rose by almost 50%, while the number of knife offences in London schools rose by 26%.
This is a devastating situation that clearly cannot be ignored.
Far from an issue which has suddenly appeared in the last year, this has been a growing problem for many years because of funding cuts, both to police services and youth facilities.
Many have noted that this tragic situation in which so many young people have lost their lives has been the direct result of funding cuts to the police system. In London, the estimated effect on the Met’s annual £3bn budget ranges from a £100m to £700m reduction.
London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, has said he would fight any further cuts but clearly this is only part of the solution.
Until now, prevention has largely focussed on short-term measures such as limiting the sale of knives to young people, controversial stop and search policies, or punitive sentencing in the aftermath of attacks.
Recently, the father of murdered schoolboy Damilola Taylor has called for an increase in stop and search to prevent knife crimes, and there have even been suggestions of the introduction of metal detectors at school entrances to prevent students from bringing in knives.
However, the murder of a 23-year old man on Tuesday – making 7 knife-crime related deaths in the space of a week – has prompted the MET to take a different approach.
On Wednesday, Scotland Yard announced the creation of Operation Sceptre which will lead to the creation of a task force of 80 specialists but also, crucially, a focus on prevention work in schools.
Finally it has been accepted that limited short-term measures are not enough. There needs to be a more holistic approach.
Detective Chief Superintendent Michael Gallagher has said that, “Strategies focused upon particular offences should be complemented by…. broader long-term initiatives against poverty and social exclusion…with messages which are delivered by communities”.
This community-based approach is a measure that JAN Trust wholeheartedly welcomes. With funding we have devised and delivered programmes to mothers and young people raising awareness and tackling knife crime, gun and gang-related violence.
Initiatives such as ours are clearly ones that need supporting and we welcome the MET’s plans to take a more community-based holistic approach to tackle this tragic problem.
Visit our website at http://www.jantrust.org to find out more about the work we do.