Caroline Pidgeon writes… Action, not rhetoric, on knife crime

When it comes to knife crime there appears to be two default settings that most Westminster politicians adopt.

The first is to turn a blind eye to the issue for large periods of time.

For example in London during the six week General Election period, 26th March to 8th May, there were 789 victims of serious youth violence, 1,231 victims of knife crime and 441 victims of knife crime with injury.  That’s 40 a day.

Yet despite these figures the issue was almost entirely ignored.   Few politicians campaigned on the issue or wanted to talk about it.

The second position for Westminster politicians is to suddenly take a very short term interest, but to be totally obsessed with the idea that ‘fixed term’ sentences are the only solution.   

Sadly neither approach is the right one.

We certainly do need to be addressing the issue of knife crime and its impact on so many young people.

In London knife crime with injury offences rose by 14% in the year 2014/15 and there was an increase of 22% in victims under the age of 25.

And it is not just a London problem.  Knife crime increased across the whole of England and Wales in the year 2014/15.

This week I published a report setting out how serious the problem of knife crime now is in London, but also the range of policies that could make a real difference.

The report was based on the collection of data, extensive Mayoral Questions that I have asked, and discussions with a number of charities and senior police officers.  Sadly its launch turned out to be in the same week that saw two boys stabbed in a school in Dulwich and also a seventeen year old stabbed to death in Holloway – the 14th teenager to be stabbed to death in London this year.

What my report advocates is putting far greater emphasis on the prevention of knife crime.

I don’t advocate a return to the crude and blanket use of stop and search that took place in the past, but I do strongly believe that targeted, properly carried out stop and search used in tandem with other operational tools, such as an increased use of knife arches and recorded weapons’ sweeps could help take knives and offensive weapons off our streets.

It is also staggering that the highly effective policy of the ‘Cardiff Model’ is still not being fully implemented across London, and I expect many other parts of the country. The sharing of anonymous data collected from A&E departments can play a vital role in identifying knife crime hotspots and lead to far more effective policing.  Only 30% of London A&Es currently use the model.

We also need to go further, for example we need to have a youth worker in place in every A&E and walk-in centre available to give intervention advice to a young person who is at a crossroads.  Algonside this we also need mental health support for those young people suffering from post-traumatic stress.

Schools also have a key role to play. Schools that try to avoid the stigma of being associated with organisations that help to tackle knife crime are failing their pupils. Schools that have any real concern for their pupils should be welcoming these organisations and the police through their doors.

Knife crime is on the increase and we should be honest about that. If we have any concern at all for a whole generation of teenagers we should start taking practical action today.

* Caroline Pidgeon is the Liberal Democrat London Assembly Member and chair of the London Assembly Transport Committee

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7 Comments

  • Richard Underhill 28th Nov '15 - 10:01pm

    Is it still the cae that police officers need to choose a jacket that protects against knives? or a jacket that protects against guns?

  • Thank you for highlighting this problem again. It’s so right that we need to do more about prevention.

    Maybe teaching children in schools from an early age about the lives wasted through knife crime could also be helpful, with age-appropriate short films for example? More regular knife amnesties would also be good with much tougher penalties for people who supply knives.

    Finally, I remember an article published in the British Medical Journal which suggested that we actually change the design of knives to make them capable of rendering less harm. A novel idea, but maybe worth exploring too? Here’s the link: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/7508404.stm. Also: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/4581871.stm

  • Richard Underhill 29th Nov '15 - 10:20am

    Also consult carefully about chefs. Their knives may well be their own property, carefully sharpened at work, but on the way home they may stop in a pub for a drink. A busy kitchen, with a slippery floor and a stupid assistant can fray their nerves.

  • @ Richard. Making light of knife crime is really inappropriate.

  • Richard Underhill 29th Nov '15 - 4:56pm

    Judy Abel 29th Nov ’15 – 2:51pm Sorry you think that. I have worked in the Life Sentence Review Section of Prison Service HQ dealing mainly with murder, proved in UK courts beyond reasonable doubt, but I will spare you the details.

  • @Judy – I suspect that changing the design of knives would make very little difference to the actual volume of knife crime., as I suspect that a wound caused by for example a Stanley knife (1-inch blade) is still counted as a knife crime.

  • Caroline Pidgeon 3rd Dec '15 - 5:40pm

    Judy – thank you for your comments and bringing to my attention the issue the BMA article about the design of knives.

    I certainly accept that some steps could be taken in this area. I definitely think some action needs to be taken in relation to how some quite horrific knives (which seem to have no practical purposes) are easily available, such as so called ‘Zombie’ knives. This is just one example of how easily these knives can be obtained at present: http://hunters-knives.co.uk/zombie-swords-and-knives.html?p=4

    Caroline

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