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.
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.