For knife crime solution, ask Glasgow
PUBLISHED: 21:30 07 March 2019 | UPDATED: 11:20 08 March 2019
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A sudden rise in knife crime has hit the headlines this week - but Iain Dale says it can be stopped, just look at what happened in Glasgow
On Monday evening 250 worried parents gathered in their local school to hear anti-knife crime campaigner Alison Cope about the best way their children could be protected from the growing scourge of knife crime in their area. This school wasn’t in Tottenham, Lewisham or Peckham. It was in leafy Broxbourne, in Hertfordshire.
Alison has reason to campaign against knife crime. Her 18-year-old son Joshua was brutally murdered by a fellow teenager, wielding a knife. She has now devoted her life to convincing teenagers there is another path in life.
Justin Finlayson’s son was stabbed 11 times in a random attack on his local high street. Thankfully he survived, but Justin now runs an anti-knife crime charity, United Borders. Neither of these heroic people gets any funding support from the taxpayer. Everything they do, they fund privately.
The rise in knife crime in London and across the country has thankfully (so far) not been reflected in Norfolk and Suffolk, but it is clear it’s not just a “London problem”. It’s not just a “big city” problem. Knife crime is affecting small, rural market towns too. Just look through the pages of this newspaper and on an almost daily basis there are knife crime incidents being reported.
Our local police and public health authorities seem to have got a grip on the issue in a way that others haven’t. According to the latest set of crime statistics, while knife crime has risen by 47pc since 2010, in the last year it fell by one third. That’s the biggest fall in any area of the country. Suffolk saw the third biggest fall. Other police forces ought to be learning from their country cousins.
In Norfolk, the police concentrated on the fact that drug-related criminality is also often associated with the use of knives, so a crackdown on drug offences led to a commensurate fall in knife crime. But these figures only go to the end of June last year. Let’s hope the downward trend continues, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if the rises in the rest of the country were also reflected in our region too.
On Monday the Prime Minister denied that there was a direct link between the cut in police officers and the rise in knife crime. If she really believes this, she is deluding herself. All she is doing is trying to protect her own record when she was home secretary. A matter of hours later she was completely undermined by the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Cressida Dick, who said on LBC Radio that of course there was a link. It’s simplistic to say that this is the main reason for the rise in knife crime, but it is certainly a factor. There are many others.
One of them is that knife crime is often committed by teenagers who have had very little male role models in their lives. They fall prey to gangs who give them a sense of belonging that maybe they’ve never had in their lives before. Some knife-carrying gang members are as young as 10 years old. They’re effectively groomed. Carrying a knife becomes as natural as wearing a pair of expensive trainers.
Every time there is another spate of fatal stabbings, politicians wring their hands, profess to be taking the problem very seriously, announce that police patrols are being stepped up, shake the magic money tree to find another few hundred million pounds... and then go back to arguing about Brexit.
I’m not pretending there’s an easy solution, but we do know that Glasgow used to be the knife crime capital of not only the United Kingdom, but the whole of Europe. Nowadays, it is way down the league table. Why? Because they adopted a long-term, public-health approach to knife crime. They co-ordinated activities between the enforcement authorities, schools, social services and youth services.
They came up with a strategy which worked, and which the rest of the country ought to be copying, and doing so before it’s too late.
Email Iain at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @iaindale.com