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There is no simple way to deal with knife crime

As more than a hundred young people take to the streets to pay their respects after a sixteen-year-old boy was stabbed to death on Monday night (September 14th, 2015), yet again a community is left asking ‘How can we stop the killing?’.

It is rumoured that the stabbing of Mohammed ‘Moe’ Dura-Ray in Walworth was a result of a gang attack.

Trident, the police squad that examines gang related crimes, is investigating and across social media comment after comment is made on how best to stem the continuing problem of knife crime.

There is no simple answer – gang crime is a part of a larger social deprivation issue. Some will see a solution in dealing with the root causes for young people getting involved in crime in the first place, while others want a strong tactic used by police to combat the attacks as they happen.

Clearly there are gaping holes in what is happening to help on the ground at a community level and by the police on the frontline.

Borough Commander Zander Gibson recently posted a video of himself online promoting the controversial stop and search tactic as an effective way of reducing knife crime.

In the face of public concern about racial profiling lying behind the disproportionate amount of young black men who are stopped, Mr Gibson said he expected the use of “respectfully conducted, targeted stop and search” to increase in areas where knife crime was more prevalent.

The number of stop and searches carried out in the borough dropped by half in the last year – from 1,253 in June 2014 to 627 in June this year – after the Met Commissioner ordered improvements to make sure the practice was more “intelligence-led” and “transparent”, as public complaints of officers unfairly targeting young men from ethnic minorities at random came flooding in.

In a News report in April on poor knife crime detection rates in the borough, a Met spokesperson said knife crime in Southwark had actually reduced by twenty percent in the previous twelve months.

Southwark crime statistics, which do not describe the type of weapon used, show an increase of ‘woundings’ from 861 incidents in 2013-14 to 1,093 in 2014-15, while carrying an ‘offensive weapon’ remained roughly the same. Avril Jones, co-chair of the Southwark Safer Neighbourhoods Board and independent advisor to the borough police, said stop and search was “valuable”.

However, in this same edition today as the reporting on the tragic death of Moe Dura-Ray, we also have an article on how we could lose all our PCSOs in one fell swoop if cuts to neighbourhood policing go ahead this month.

Labour’s London Assembly Member for Lambeth & Southwark, Val Shawcross described this as “the final nail in the coffin for neighbourhood policing.”

This apocalyptic warning is mirrored by youth charity groups, with one charity leader in a recent article in the News saying penniless organisations are “holding back the gates of hell.”

Jennifer Blake has been working at Peckham’s coal face for eleven years – helping young people get out of gangs, drugs and abuse with her organisation Safe n’ Sound. Herself a former gang leader, Jennifer used to receive funding from Southwark Council and the Met police, because her work was seen to prevent bloodshed on our streets.  But she is now running her award-winning charity single-handedly with eleven volunteers while her mum puts money on the electricity meter, after local authorities and police forces had their funding cut by central government.


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