Guest Speaker – Councillor Hamida Ali, Cabinet Member for Safer Croydon and Communities

Thornton Heath Branch were pleased to welcome Councillor Hamida Ali to discuss Croydon Council’s approach to tackling youth violence.

Hamida spoke of a study which identified 60 cases of young people participating in knife crime and trying to understand common characteristics of the individuals. Interim findings:

  • Not one of 60 young people had a permanent place in school (exclusions)
  • Not one of them had a relationship with a trusted adult – no mentor, grandparent, and in effect no one to turn to
  • Significant unaddressed mental health needs
  • Domestic violence and early exposure to violence
  • Maternal absence, physically or emotionally (working, pressures)

The study goes a long way to justifying a public health approach to tackling knife crime. Hamida acknowledges the current challenge we face and the scale of the problem, which is not just a Croydon issue but a London-wide and Nationwide issue. On a positive note Hamida pointed out that whilst knife crime has gone up in London by 22% it has gone down in Croydon by 11%. Sadiq Khan singled out Croydon’s efforts for reducing crime. That said, Croydon still has disproportionately high offence rates and lots of work to be done.

Hamida outlined a number of things Croydon Council are currently doing to tackle knife crime, including:

  • Local strategic partnerships: leaders coming together to discuss cross-cutting common issues of borough, work with voluntary sector etc.
  • Prevention/ early intervention
  • Working in schools – intervening prior to thresholds being passed.
  • London crime prevention fund – funded two youth workers to work in particular schools.
  • Video-based workshops around drugs, gangs and knives experienced by all young people in secondary schools and also taken into primary schools
  • Targeted approaches such as police enforcement in known hotspots
  • Enforcement i.e. Trading Standards Team working with retailers.
  • Responsible retailer agreement with over 150 shops. Lots of mystery shopping – young volunteers – testing the sale of age restricted products.

Challenges

Despite the positive steps taken by Croydon Council and the local community, Hamida outlined challenges including:

  • Communications and awareness raising, too many people not aware of what is going on.
  • Parents need to be better supported and educated about issues
  • Voluntary organisations under-utilised.

Questions and comments from audience centred on impact of cuts, limited resources in schools and lack of intervention in primary schools.