KNIFE CRIME IN CROYDON – THREE: “AGE OF YOUNG PEOPLE INVOLVED IN KNIFE CRIME IS GETTING LOWER AND LOWER” SAYS MP – “Police do not have the resources to go into schools to build up trust”
The appalling extent of knife crime in London has been highlighted by Croydon Central MP Sarah Jones in a Commons debate.
She told the House:
- Knife crime and knife carrying are increasing – up by one fifth across England and Wales, according to recent official statistics
- Comparative data from NHS hospitals show a 13 per cent increase in admissions for assault by sharp object between 2015 and 2016
- Of growing concern about ‘county lines’ operated by urban criminal networks.She agreed with Will Quince (Con, Colchester) who said: “We need to get police forces outside London to work far more closely with the Metropolitan Police to try to break some of those county lines, and particularly to tackle the practice of cuckooing, which preys on the most vulnerable in our society”
Sarah Jones told the debate: “County lines is a new and developing issue that I have learned about in Croydon.
“Gangs go out as far as Cardiff and down to the south coast from London and other UK cities. “They are spreading out, and we need to do more.
“Police resourcing is absolutely key, but we need to work together even more. “Children from Aberdeen to Cardiff and Margate are carrying knives. “It is a UK-wide problem.
“Secondly I know that the age of the young people involved is getting lower and lower. “Every single agency I spoke to over the summer said that it was used to seeing young people between the ages of 16 and 24, but that the age of the children it saw was dropping to 12, 13 and 14.”
Asked by fellow Croydon MP Steve Reed “to what extent did she believe that the severe cuts to council services—they have led to cuts in services such as crime prevention, early intervention and family support—and the severe reductions in neighbourhood policing have contributed to Croydon having the second highest level of knife crime in London?” Sarah Jones said her colleague was absolutely right.
“Over the summer, I walked around with the police looking for knives, and I talked to senior police officers and many others about the impact on their work of the cuts to their budgets and to other services.
“I heard about policeman (sic) buying food for children whom they had picked up before taking them home, because those children did not have enough food to eat.
“There are a huge range of issues that we need to tackle, but police cuts and local government cuts are an important part of the picture.”
Helen Hayes Labour, Dulwich and West Norwood, congratulating Sarah Jones on her “truly excellent speech” asked: “Although the causes of and the solutions to knife crime are complicated, does she agree that the absolutely first base needed to solve it is properly resourced neighbourhood policing?
“Such policing builds trust, and is the bedrock of the trust between the police and local communities. “It is absolutely critical in fostering a culture in which our young people believe that the police are there to keep them safe, and that they therefore do not need to carry weapons of their own.”
In reply, Sarah Jones said: “My hon. Friend is absolutely right. “When I was walking around with the local police looking for knives on a local council estate, I talked to them about the impact of the cuts on their job, and they said the impact was very severe and that they could not do the things they wanted to do.
“One of the things they do not have the resources to do, for example, is to go into schools to normalise the relationship between children and the police so that a bit more trust can be built up between them.
“Such interventions are absolutely crucial, but at the moment they are not happening in the way they should.
“I welcome the Mayor of London’s recent knife crime strategy, as well as the work of many colleagues, such as that of my hon. Friend Vicky Foxcroft (Lab. Lewisham and Deptford), in setting up the Youth Violence Commission. “The Home Office’s flagship scheme on ending gang violence and exploitation is well intentioned, but with just under £100,000 of funding for this year, it does not have enough money, and it also focuses predominately on gangs. “It does not reflect the complex reality that has developed during the past few years, and it requires cash-starved local authorities to fund half the cost of the programme if they want it to be implemented in their areas.
“I want to press the minister to give this issue the breadth of focus it deserves. “The Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Cressida Dick, has herself said that ‘we absolutely cannot deal with this problem through enforcement alone’.”
(Source: TheyWorkForYou website. Adjournment debate on knife crime, House of Commons September 6th)