Blunting the spike in knife crime

Fiona Onasanya column
Fiona Onasanya column
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The spike that we have seen in violent crime, particularly knife crime, is something that is of concern to many of my constituents. I share their concern over the troubling statistics that show knife crime rising 22 per cent over 2017, which according to the Office for National Statistics, is part of a worrying trend that has seen reports of knife crime increase consistently since 2015.

Although much of the media coverage of this rise has been London-centric, we should be under no illusion that this nationwide trend is also impacting Peterborough. One particular incident that emphasises this is the gang attack on a teenage girl in the city centre that involved up to 40 young people and created a serious public order situation.

More and more young adults are being sucked into gangs and violent incidents. This national problem is something that on many levels, the government is currently failing to address.

It is imperative to note that over the last three years, Britain has lost around 7,000 neighbourhood police officers. In my mind, it is no coincidence that over this time, violent crime has soared. While it is fair to say that more police on the streets does not necessarily deter crime or completely solve the problem, the relationship that officers can build in the communities that they serve can be a vital trust-building exercise which can often provide useful intelligence that will make our streets safer.

The reality is that our police force are currently asked to do more with less, and unless we fully equip the police and change the government’s consensus on slashing services, then the public is being put at risk.

However, a multi-faceted problem requires more than one solution and approach. An increase in police funding does not actually tackle the root cause of this spike - which in my mind - is poverty and disadvantage. There are often racial undertones in the media’s coverage of knife crime, but this racial assumption ignores the class-based reality of the problem.

Working class kids are bearing the brunt of the 62 per cent cut in funding for youth services in England over the last eight years. Hundreds of centres have closed, and 83 per cent of youth workers believe that these cuts have had an effect on crime and antisocial behaviour. Youth clubs are often the last port of call: a safe space for young people that can stop them from being exploited and coerced by gangs. Instead of getting lectured by their teacher or a police officer in school, these clubs are often led by people who turned away from a life of crime or are trying to reform themselves - essentially - relatable role-models for children in need.

We must make the provision of youth services compulsory. Instead of viewing this spike in violent crime solely through a law and order lens, we must also address it as a public health and child protection issue if we are to truly tackle this ever-growing problem.