Havering: The fight to tackle knife crime and save the lives of young people Councillor Tele Lewal

“Young people should not pay the price for austerity with their lives” – Labour Party Leader

Across the capital, senseless killings have shocked communities and the recent surge in knife crime has led me to evaluate the policing, council services and community efforts to tackle youth violence in the London Borough of Havering.

70% of police funding comes from the Tory government. Since they came into power in 2010, our police have been dealing with eight years of consecutive cuts. The impact of reduced funding from the Tories has resulted in the following:

– Over 3,000 PCs axed,
– Over 3,000 PCSOs gone
– 5,000 civilian staff reduced &
– The Metropolitan Police has had to make £850m in savings
– Funding to national police commissioners has fallen by 30% in real-terms since 2010-11
– Under a Labour Government we had over 32,000 MET officers, we now have under 27,000 MET officers – for a growing population

Last year, the National Audit Office (NAO) published an in-depth review covering police funding across England and Wales which can be found HERE. In summary, it called for the Tory government to WAKE UP. The report highlighted that the situation “could get worse” if the Home Office does not “direct resources to where they are needed.” The NAO report accused the Home Office of a “light touch” approach, with falling funding and staffing levels in the last eight years contributing to INCREASED levels of “high harm” crimes.

Metropolitan Police Chief, Cressida Dick recently said: “I think that what we all agree on is that in the last few years police officer numbers have gone down a lot, there’s been a lot of other cuts in public services, there has been more demand for policing.” She added, “I agree that there is some link between violent crime on the streets obviously and police numbers, of course there is, and everybody would see that.”

Well, not everyone, and certainly not our Prime Minister, Theresa May who stated there is “no direct correlation between certain crimes and police numbers,” and accused leaders who are speaking out for their grieving communities of “crying wolf.” I guess the Prime Minister has not had the time to read the NAO report or speak to the MET Chief.

The Prime Minister is relatively busy handling Brexit negotiations so positively well and throwing away £33 million of tax-payers money, which could have been invested into tackling youth violence, but was instead paid out to Eurostar thanks to the sheer incompetence of the Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling.

SO, WHAT DO WE DO NOW?

1. Report all crime to the police, so we can receive further resources in Havering

If residents want more police patrolling the wards of Havering, then residents need to report every crime, in order, for this Tory government to know that we have real safety concerns in Havering because for some reason they don’t seem to understand despite the below increase since 2014 (stats available on Havering Council’s website):

As a member of Havering Council’s committee which looks at policing and community safety in the borough, I have been informed by the police and council officers who attend the meetings that “Havering residents, unfortunately, are not reporting as much crime as they should be.” If you do not report crimes for what-ever reasons then Havering will always have relatively lower crime figures compared to inner-London (check the MET data), and we will not receive the policing/funding for the services we critically need, because we are not seen as “priority” to the Tory government, despite the above stats.
Oh, and there is proof to this…
In November 2011, the Ending Gang and Youth Violence (EGYV) report was published, which was led by former Home Secretary, Theresa May. The reported identified 29 areas nationally facing the biggest challenges in relation to youth violence.

Out of the 29, there were 18 London boroughs identified as part of the EGYV work programme who received funding ranging from £195k-344k for 2012-13. Since then an additional 23 areas have been added to the list of EGYV areas, of which Havering is one.

One would think as Havering has been deemed as an area of concern regarding youth violence, we would receive additional funding from the EGYV. Unfortunately, our young people’s lives in Havering does not matter to the Tory government. Havering has NOT received any EGYV funding despite being added to the EGYV list and the following changes in the borough:

• Since 2011, there has been an inward migration of gang members and offenders involved in serious youth violence into Havering
• In 2014, Havering borough was the third largest importer of gang members identified by the Metropolitan Police Trident Gang Crime Command matrix
• Havering has the 10th highest rate of serious youth violence compared to the whole of London

The reason for Havering not receiving the funding, according to the Tories was because Havering has “lower levels of serious youth violence” (not a priority).

Let me understand correctly, we need to have more young people murdered in Havering, before we receive the additional resources? What a flawed approach. surely, early intervention would make more sense.

MET Tri-borough – Mayor of London

In the past year we merged with Redbridge and Barking & Dagenham to form a new Tri-borough police unit. A decision the Mayor of London had to make across the capital because the MET have to save £325m-400m by 2022 (a result of cuts from the Tories).

How did this impact Havering in tackling youth violence?

Well, Havering gained a Gangs Unit, which we did NOT have before, this has enabled the police and Havering Council to target the highest risk gang nominals across all three boroughs.

Havering Council was also able to RELAUNCH the Serious Group Violence (SGV) panel in August 2017 to work in conjunction with the Gangs Unit and share vital intelligence. This leads me on to Havering Council’s work.

2. Engage and support Havering Council’s work to tackle knife crime

Here’s a breakdown of young people in Havering charged with carrying a weapon (not exclusive to knife carrying) in the period 2015-2018 (data available on Havering Council website).

The year 2017-18 was the first time that Havering had a weapon offender aged 11-years-old. Let’s be clear about why that is; eight years of Tory cuts to policing, youth services, mental health, education and other vital public services.

Offensive Weapons Bill and Public Health Model

In response to the above, the government recently introduced the Offensive Weapons Bill which is currently passing through parliament and will update laws relating to the sale, delivery and possession of and threatening with offensive weapons, including firearms, knives and corrosive substances.

Part of the bill will include new preventive measures, such as the introduction of Knife Crime Prevention Orders, basically, an “Asbo-style order.” I welcome the bill, but I am interested to see how the powers will be exercised when police numbers are failing, as well as cuts to services.

Home Sectary, Savid Javid announced that the government would also take a ‘public health’ approach to tackle youth violence – similar to Glasgow. Meanwhile, the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock appeared on the radio and didn’t seem to know this was the plan.

He told LBC Radio: “I think if you try to say that knife crime is a public health issue, it implies that there aren’t individuals who are personally responsible for these terrible crimes and you’ve got to start from the point of the perpetrator needing to be brought to justice.”

Responding, Louise Haigh MP, Labour’s Shadow Policing Minister, said:

“It is disturbing that the Health Secretary doesn’t seem to be aware of his own Government’s strategy to tackle violent crime.

“Rather than taking real action to address the national knife crime epidemic that has arisen on its watch, the Government’s own strategy has been revealed to be nothing more than warm words.

“How can the Tory government possibly be serious about taking a public health approach when the Health Secretary doesn’t even know about it?

“Labour advocates real investment in community safety and a public health approach to knife crime.”

There is no real leadership from the Tory government, which is failing our young people. It is disappointing that there is no consensus, and the Tories are not willing to call Cobra, despite emergency calls from the Labour Party.

Unlike the Tories, Havering’s Labour Party Councillors will be clear on our approach in Havering, we believe in a multi-faceted approach to tackle knife crime in our community. We need politicians, Havering Council, schools, Metropolitan Police, Mayor’s Office for Police and Crime, London Ambulance Service, voluntary organisations, charities, community, businesses, faith groups and families working together. EVERYONE!

Havering Council is already embracing this approach and commissions/delivers preventative and enforcement opportunities across the borough. Some of the programmes already in place include the
following:
• Street Doctors
• No Knives in Schools
• Gangs Awareness Training
• Mentoring Scheme
• Schools access to Search Wands
• Safer Schools Officers
• Junior Citizens Programme
• Youth Offending Service Intensive Weapons Programme
• Operation Sceptre
• Knife Amnesty Bin
• Knife Arches
• Safe Haven Schemes
• Sales of Knives and Noxious Substances
• Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub
• Spark 2 Life
• Drug dogs
• Work with BTP
• Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH)
• Serious Group Violence Panel
• Regular weapons sweeps
• Counselling
• And much more…

Havering Council have also created an ambitious Serious Group Violence & Knife Crime Strategy 2018-2021, which will be reviewed by the Cabinet in April. I would strongly urge residents to read the report once available and share any views.

I have reviewed the document and put forward recommendations through my committees, but in light of recent events, I will be taking a further look. I am very keen to see the programmes rolled out in Havering, with an even further joint-up effort to save young people’s lives. The focus of the strategy will be:

• Intelligence and information sharing
• Intervention
• Prevention
• Enforcement

Havering Council have already submitted a number of bids to contribute to the strategy, such as to the Home Office Early Intervention fund (successful) and the government’s Troubled Families programme (awaiting an outcome), and they intend to submit a bid to the Young Londoners fund when applications open later in 2019.

Predominately, funding for youth violence in Havering comes from MOPAC, through the London Crime Prevention Fund (LCPF). A new system has been introduced where boroughs receive a committed allocated amount of funding on a 2-yearly basis. £114,000 per year was allocated for 2017/2018 and 2018/2019. I am waiting for the funding announcement for the period 2019/2020 to 2021/2022.

Havering Council’s Children Services said: “A further note should be taken of the financial restraints being put on the Public Sector. Depending on where the future [Tory] cuts are made, this could impact upon the boroughs ability to carry out various tasks within the Serious Group Violence Strategy post 2018/2019.”

Havering’s Labour Party Councillors are concerned about the funding for the programmes, and we have put forward a motion urging the Tory Councillors to review its provision for youth services:

“This Council urges the Executive to urgently review its provision of Youth Services as part of a multifaceted approach with its strategic partners to address and reduce the level of knife crime and serious youth violence in the Borough including the adoption of a public health model in the medium and long term.”

We hope all Councillors in Havering support our motion at the next Full Council, by putting party politics aside for the sake of all young people’s lives across the borough.

I would also like to thank Havering Council for their work during this tragic time. Havering Council are offering bereavement counselling to schools affected by the tragedy, as well as other support.

3. Community cohesion to support our young people is the key ingredient to tackling knife crime

“Although we need more officers on the street, policing is not the only answer to addressing the rise in violent crime. We need to come together as a community investing time and resources to rebuild the safety nets that this government have taken away.” – Jon Cruddas Labour MP
Here, Here.
Havering has really come together after the tragedy in the community, we have seen petitions for more policing, purple ribbons across the borough, a knife crime campaign launched in Harold Hill and a peaceful march to honour all victims of knife crime.
The community is needed to tackle knife crime and save young people’s lives. With that in mind, residents need to be properly involved in key decisions, strategies or programmes before they are implemented into their area, to ensure they are effective and targeted.
We need to rebuild the community and police relationship. Residents must have a healthy dialogue with their local officers, work in conjunction and share that ever so important intelligence.
Havering needs to work smarter. The pockets of groups need to combine their resources and funding to reach more young people. We also need to see greater community cohesion and individuals being more proactive than reactive.
There are many ways the community can play their part:
Communities creating Street Watch Teams is a way for people to come together, wearing high visibility jackets and patrol hotspot areas in their ward. This is an effective way to show a presence of unity and protect others. Further information here: http://www.street-watch.org/havering/index.html
‘Safe havens’ in public places should not only be limited to community centres or youth hubs. It is widely known that a lot of serious youth violence happens between 15:00 – 21:00 pm and in public places, such as town centres/high streets.
Therefore, I would encourage businesses in Havering to have visible signs outside their organisations, which state this is a ‘safe haven,’ so, a young person who is running away to save his/her life, knows they can enter that organisation for shelter, and then they’ll be referred to the relevant professionals.
How many times have we seen young people fighting in the town centre and then they run into a shop because they don’t want to be harmed, and then they are told to get out… a young life could be saved with this measure.
It also shows a sense of unity to see a visible sign which is associated with protecting young people.
Sharing our skills, knowledge and experiences with other residents can save the lives of young people. Do you know how to do CPR? Have you been a victim of knife crime? or maybe you carried a knife? We need individuals to communicate and share their expertise with others across the Borough. You never know when that information will be useful.
Public and private organisations should give young people further opportunities. By proactively contacting schools, colleges and pupil referral units to offer young people a range of experiences across Havering.
This also helps with lowering NEET (Not in Education, Employment, or Training) statistics in Havering and gives young people a better chance in life.
Arts and sports clubs or organisations are key! Young people being active is an effective way to tackle youth violence and utilise their talents.
Residents sharing intelligence with the police and Havering Council is extremely important. This will ensure the right resources are allocated. There are many ways residents can engage with relevant authorities by taking part in the following:
1. Stop and Search Monitoring Group
2. Independent Advisory Group
3. Safer Neighbourhood Board
4. Safer Neighbourhood Ward Panel Meetings
5. Crime and Disorder Committee
6. Street Watch
Schools need to work better with young people. Although OFSTED can rate a school as ‘outstanding’ or ‘good’ there is always room for improvement. A lot happens in schools which does not always surface in the public realm. I believe more conversations need to be had about money laundering, drug selling and weapons.

Youth forums in the Town Hall. I was never engaged with politics or my local authority when I was young. I was not a member of my Youth Council, nor did I engage with them or even know who they were.

Local authorities should hold quarterly youth forums in their Town Halls for under 25s. This will empower young people to come together and talk about what is happening, decisions which will impact their community and what they would like to see, all of this can be useful for when planning priorities for the next budget year.
Conclusion

Serious youth violence and knife crime is not a new phenomenon. This has been happening for years.

We cannot continue to have the same conversations. It is time for further action to ensure our young people reach their full potential. Enough of burying our young people before their time, or seeing children ending up in the justice system because no one cared about them too.
I would also like to see women and girls have a more active role in tackling knife crime, as their voices are usually either muted or rarely heard.
On that note, I urge everyone to play their part.

Tele Lewal is a Havering Labour Councillor, first elected in May 2018

 

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