Aysuda Aykan, a 17 year old student from Lewisham Deptford, recently spent a week in my office. As part of her work experience, Aysuda attended MOPAC’s Knife Crime summit. I asked her to share her thoughts on the summit and on tackling knife crime more generally.
On Wednesday 27 June, a London Knife Crime Strategy Summit was held by MOPAC to help address a more efficient way of tackling the increasing rate of knife crime across all London boroughs.
In attendance at the summit was the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan who emphasised the importance of tackling the initial causes of knife crime using evidence-based interventions and the involvement of all institutions. Knife crime and other associated crime is on the rise with a 22 per cent increase in England and Wales. At the summit, the Research Manager for MOPAC, Dr Paul Dawson highlighted that the victims of knife crime share similar demographics with approximately half being under 25, half identified as BAME and the majority male at 80 per cent. The offenders of knife crime had similar demographics, with half the offenders being under 25, 83 per cent being male and 69 per cent identified as BAME. As the Assistant Commissioner for MPS, Martin Hewitt pointed out this suggests that the victims and the suspects are essentially the same cohort of people. Perhaps, this indicates a deficit in intervention and help for young BAME boys who are often victims of the same vulnerabilities often bringing them into regular contact with the services which further exemplifies the hostility between the youth and the authority across England and Wales. Dr Paul Dawson, identified a range of issues including a low socio-economic background, adverse childhood experiences, substance abuse, exposure to violence, social isolation school exclusion and previous victimisation and negative family relations. This further suggests a deficit in intervention and help among young black boys.
More importantly, in order to efficiently deal with the increasing knife crime incidents across all London boroughs it is highly significant that educating programmes across schools are specifically targeted to those who are victims of adverse childhood experiences. The leading UK charity The Difference who has done research on the Alternate Provision sector revealed that a child excluded from school in the North East is around eight times more likely to attend an alternative provision rated ‘Inadequate’ by Ofsted. In some local authorities with the highest levels of exclusion, 100 per cent of pupils are in settings graded ‘Inadequate’. Despite only 6,685 reported permanent exclusions last year, 48,000 of the most vulnerable pupils were educated in the AP sector which caters for excluded students. This indicates that that still more pupils are not captured in any government data but are still are routinely functionally excluded from mainstream school. Perhaps, this is a contributing factor to the increase in youth violence across England and Wales as the Mental Health Foundation revealed that 70 per cent of children and adolescents who experience mental health problems have not had appropriate interventions at a sufficiently early age meaning that unfortunately young people are further alienated which is largely reflected in social isolation. However, this is contiguously becoming difficult to tackle as the Cash-strapped Clinical Commissioning Group in England said they will reduce the proportion of their budgets spent on offering mental health support in 2017 and 2018, although the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care pledged that spending would increase.
The World Health Organisation advocates a Public Health Approach which includes prevention activity such as education and early intervention coupled with appropriate law enforcement as necessary. This was implemented in Scotland which resulted in 60 per cent decline in the murder rate in Glasgow. Between 2011 and 2016, not a single person under the age of 20 was killed with a knife in Glasgow. In 2017, not one fatality involving a knife took place anywhere in Scotland. Glasgow-based Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) has proven that long-term strategy plans are required in order to have an impact on the reduction of knife crime.