We asked candidates in North West Cambridgeshire: The public is increasingly concerned about knife crime.... What do you think needs to be done to tackle this?
Cathy Cordiner-Achenbach, Labour Party
We need to start at the beginning. We need to invest in young people - in their education, ensuring schools have the funding to build time into the curriculum to provide the personal, social and health education that children and young people need.
Public spending on youth services has been drastically cut. A Labour government would re-open youth services including youth clubs, reversing the austerity measures, providing young people with qualified, professional youth workers who can act as role models and empower young people to make wise decisions
Shailesh Vara, Conservative
Our local police work incredibly hard to keep our communities safe and this has been reflected in recent crime statistics, with Cambridgeshire seeing the largest drop in knife crime across the country.
Violent crime however, remains a serious concern for local people. The police do great work, often under difficult circumstances, but it is only the Conservatives with a plan to fully support them. Providing police with the support they need to keep communities safe, putting victims at the heart of the judicial system and ensuring prisons can truly rehabilitate offenders will see a Conservative government reducing crime across the country.
That means putting 20,000 more police officers on the streets and giving them the powers necessary to work effectively. Police will be empowered to target known knife carriers with a new court order. Moreover, we will invest in Violence Reduction Units across the country.
Those who commit crimes should be punished, but as Conservatives we also believe in giving people a second chance. Through strong support of our police officers, a commitment to reducing reoffending and ensuring prisoners go on to contribute to society, a Conservative government will reduce violent crime, stand up for the lawabiding majority, and support those who seek to turn their lives around
Bridget Smith, Liberal Democrat Party
My view is that problems like these need to be approached urgently with the aim of achieving long term prevention as much as short term solutions.
The only way of achieving this is through education delivered through schools and through universal youth services. There is also a massively missed opportunity to deliver effective programmes within prisons, and through the currently underfunded probationary service. School-based education programmes are known to be successful, but they do not address the many young people who are disengaged with education. One of the biggest tragedies of austerity was the almost total loss of universal youth provision which has undoubtedly, in part, been responsible for the huge increase in knife crime and organised child exploitation within gangs. The provision of a high-class youth service allows education, mentoring and engagement with young people for whom school and home do not provide the moral guidance that is required to shape them as responsible citizens. Linked to this is the rise in child exploitation by organised criminals which encourages violence and aggression in sometimes, very young, children through coercion, fear and intimidation. Obviously, the police have to be given the powers to deal with knife crime on a daily basis, but the evidence shows that this is an escalating problem and will continue to be so if more is not done to address its root cause.
Nicola Day, Green Party
Today’s levels of knife crime could be attributed to increases in gang culture associated with the exponential rise in the street drug trade and ‘county lines’ drug trafficking. Increases in school exclusions, poverty, unemployment and cuts to public services all play a part in exacerbating this growing and frightening trend.
I believe it is time to abandon the Government’s failed war on drugs, and start treating drug addiction as a health condition and not a crime.
The Green Party will replace the current system of prohibition with an evidence based, legalised, regulated system of drug control. The production, import and supply of drugs will be regulated according to the specific risks they pose to the individual, to society and to the environment. The taxes and licence fees that will apply to drugs will raise significant revenues, some of which will pay for the cost of drug misuse, including NHS time. I will campaign to integrate police forces more closely with communities and create community liaison and equality officers who will develop positive relationships with the public. I will also fight for more police officers on the beat.
Evidence shows that cuts in youth services have led to increased levels of crime, particularly knife crime. To end knife crime the Government must invest in specialist programmes provided in youth centres and turn at-risk children away from crime.