After a summer of killing in Southwark, a new wave of stabbings has arrived, with five killed in south London in just one week. And this is on top of a series of stabbings that were not fatal.
At all levels of police and government the reasons behind the on-going violence, especially among young people, is being analysed to find ways to combat it. The debate rages between those who see it simply as an enforcement issue and other seeing it as more of a health issue.
Here at the News we have previously argued that it should be treated as a health issue, and not just one of law enforcement.
Experts in the field at an anti-knife crime summits earlier this year and up to last week have pointed to the fact that Scotland has successfully adopted this model and that last year there was no fatal youth knife crime.
Scottish authorities have adopted this model for the past twenty years, so while it might be the answer it will not happen overnight. Indeed getting all agencies successfully to co-ordinate their efforts in order to tackle the problem is a huge job.
This week the News interviewed the Borough Commander on the merger with Lambeth. He promised that the new structure, which was imposed by the Met, will not see a decrease in officers.
In fact he told us that there will be an increase in ward officers and 999 emergency response teams. He said there would be no change in the gang units – although you would obviously argue that we definitely need change i.e. more officers.
Figures gained by this paper through a freedom of information request show that in the last four years Southwark’s safer neighbourhood team strength has been cut from a peak of 218 in 2014, to 121 at the end of September this year. At the end of December 2017, there were 141 officers in ‘neighbourhood policing roles’.
The Borough Commander would surely welcome more officers to the neighbourhood teams, as to a large degree they follow the health model, in that they do a lot of work with social services and other agencies to identify those in danger of being the perpetrators and victims of crime. Often it is the low-level crimes committed by youths, which are dealt with by these officers, that escalate into the senseless killings on our streets.
The Met is currently undergoing one of the largest recruitment drives in its history, but it will take time to train these officers. However, when the new recruits are ready all the movers and shakers in the borough need to be on the same page. Southwark needs be at the forefront of getting these men and women in our borough and in posts that will make a real difference like the safer neighbourhood teams.
In the meantime, the more work that can be done to first enforce the law and then bring all agencies together should continue – if we are ever to see a reduction in the violence with which we are sadly becoming all too familiar.