According to the Hertfordshire Police, knife crimes have more than tripled across the county since 2014 . Despite knife amnesties and other local initiatives, the trend is remorselessly upwards and Hertfordshire towns are becoming as unsafe as Britain’s inner cities. Tragically, over 1,000 young people ( age 10-19) were admitted to UK hospitals with knife injuries last year and 10 teenagers have been killed in just the first two months of 2019.
Sadly, this increase should not surprise us. You can’t cut police numbers, essential services in schools, access to mental health services and youth work, and not expect there to be consequences. Beyond the tragic injuries and fatalities, there’s a climate of fear. The fear experienced by young victims and their loved ones every time they leave home. Nationally police budgets have been cut by £250m since 2010, leading to 21,000 fewer officers on increasingly dangerous streets. The police are becoming a reactive ‘blue light’ service with fewer Officers available to engage with local communities or to carry out ‘stop and search’ operations around knife crime ‘hot spots’.
Austerity driven cuts to Police Budgets are only a part of the problem. Since 2010 there has been a massive contraction in community services like youth clubs, resulting in many more young people spending time on the street, where risks are higher and the temptation to carry knives for ‘protection’ is greater.
Maintained Schools and Corporate Academies, focused on tests and targets are excluding 40 ‘disruptive’ or ‘under achieving’ children a day. Small wonder that bored young people, lacking positive role models, are targeted by criminal gangs who use Social Media to paint a beguiling picture of drug dealing and violence. 90% of young people serving sentences in youth offending Institutions have previously been excluded from School.
The epidemic of knife violence can only be countered when schools, police, health and youth workers work together, intervening early to support young people at risk of being sucked into knife crime. This approach has been used by the Scottish Government to reduce violent deaths in Glasgow, once “The Murder Capital of Europe”, from 41 in 2005 to 0 in 2016.
The continuing spate of stabbings involving young people amounts to a national crisis requiring a sense of urgency and strong leadership. This is not being provided by a government obsessed with the Brexit end game. Theresa May is in denial insisting that “there is no direct correlation between crime and police numbers”. Phillip Hammond thinks that the police should “become more efficient” but will not commit to extra funding. This country and our young people deserve better!
A piece by David Payne, a local campaigner and prospective candidate in the local elections in May