Here is what has been said
We all deserve to feel safe, whether it is in our homes or while we are out and about on the street.
Following years of decline in the violent crime figures, the Metropolitan Police recently reported recorded crime was up across virtually every category this included knife crime, which rose 24 per cent.
The last few weeks in London has demonstrated the tragic reality of this statistic. Across the capital, six men have lost their lives in knife attacks. Two of these incidents struck a chord with me as they happened within a mile of my own home in Battersea.
During the early hours of 28 March, police and paramedics responded to a report of an attack in Surrey Lane, Battersea.
Malachi Brooks had been stabbed. Despite the emergency services heroic attempts to save him, Mr Brooks was pronounced dead at the scene 40 minutes later.
More recently, on 23 April, 17-year-old Mahamad Hassan was cycling through the York Road estate, Battersea. Residents reported to the police that he was chased down by a masked gang and stabbed to death.
People are legitimately beginning to feel concerned for their safety and starting to worry about those close to them when they leave their houses.
I have spoken with my friends, neighbours and local business leaders. They have told me about gangs on motorbikes, with the number plates of their scooters blacked-out wearing balaclava’s and wielding knives whilst driving on the pavements and smashing car windows to steal their contents.
Many witnesses have reported these incidents of theft, dangerous driving and criminal damage by calling 101 and 999 over the last month, only to be told that the police are too stretched to attend, or even investigate the crimes. Worst still have been told there is nothing that they can do as they are on scooters.
Now, young people becoming involved in crime when they have nothing else to do and when they have nothing to lose is not a recent phenomenon.
The Met police have stated that there had been an increase in the number of young people carrying knives; however only an estimated quarter of those carrying blades are actually linked to gangs. The Met suspects the increase is partly down to people believing in the need of a knife for self-protection.
Activities for young people help, but also having others who understand their concerns and issues plays a massive role in their development.
The importance of positive role models cannot be underestimated. Due to financial pressures youth clubs, children’s centres and play schemes across the country are being shut as local authorities deal with cuts from national government. The impact on young people has been huge.
It’s easy to criticise but what can be done?
More visible policing would be beneficial but, how can the Met police provide this when on a budget that is continually facing cuts?
Since the Conservatives came to power in 2010 the Met police has been forced to make £600m in savings. It will have to find ways to save a further £400m by 2020. More bobbies on the beat does not appear to be an option at present, so perhaps the Met police needs to find some (not so) new ways to patrol our neighbourhoods.
A couple of weeks ago The Sun ran a piece accusing police officers in Devon of “not doing their job’’ purely because they chose to break for tea in a local café where they were visible to the public.
The story angered many, including the local police force as well as Devon and Cornwall’s Police and Crime Commissioner Alison Hernandez.
Were these officers really not within their rights to have a refreshment break? Is this not precisely the kind of visibility that communities are crying out for?
A group of officers having their tea break at a local cafe would certainly go some way towards deterring anti-social behaviour. I would like to see a scheme across London, and even the whole country, where friendly cafes sign up to offer our hard-working boys in blue a place to rest and a free cup of tea on a cold or wet day.
Each London borough will have different issues and problems. The area I live in is brilliantly diverse. We should all work to reach out and bring the community together.
Try volunteering for organisations who understand the pressures on today’s young people. Helping to improve their lives and prospects is hugely rewarding.
Residents, let’s organise into associations and we must keep reporting incidents to the police even if we feel that sometimes these reports are not being acted on and let’s get to know our local police officers.
This will take time and there will be obstacles to overcome. Personally, my first step will be to lobby my local council to deploy mobile CCTV cameras.
The people I have spoken to on the estates are crying out for this. Wandsworth council has it in their capability to provide the service. It’s about time they realised the urgency of the matter.
And let us all get behind the #BrewsForBlues campaign; asking local cafes to welcome police officers to come and enjoy their tea breaks in the community.
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