Stabbings in Southwark increased by 48 per cent in just one year, it has been revealed.
Figures showing the extent of knife crime in the borough were released as the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, launched the Capital’s first ever knife crime strategy to deal with the issue, including an additional £625,000 for knife and gang crime projects, taking total spending to £7million.
The package of measures also includes plans to offer metal-detecting wands and ‘safer schools officers’ to schools in London where knife crime is prevalent.
The use of test purchasing to investigate whether knives are being sold to minors will also be stepped up – and will include online retailers.
And retailers who repeatedly sell knives illegally to underage customers will be ‘named and shamed’.
We are going back to the dark ages when we used to have youth gang problems in Camberwell and Peckham fifteen to twenty years ago
The latest Metropolitan Police statistics show there were 172 incidents of ‘knife crime with injury’ in Southwark during 2015-16, compared to 254 in 2016-17 – an increase of 47.67 per cent.
Since the start of the year, 24 Londoners under the age of 25 have died as a result of stabbings across the capital.
Welcoming the knife crime strategy, Florence Eshalomi, London Assembly member for Lambeth and Southwark, said: “I have been appalled by the increase in knife crime in recent years.
“We’ve seen families and communities in Southwark and beyond suffer unimaginable turmoil. We have long needed real action to rid our city of these destructive crimes.
“My colleagues were warning Boris Johnson and the police of rises in violent crime back in 2014, but we were told that this was about bad statistics or increases in reporting.
“Sadiq Khan has made it clear he won’t continue his predecessor’s legacy of complacency.
“It’s going to take every section of the community, including families, schools, and the police, coming together to tackle knife crime.
“This strategy seeks to equip communities to do just that, but it is vital that any action from the Mayor is matched with increased funding from government. This is especially important when it comes to youth services.”
Councillor Anood Al-Samerai, leader of Southwark Liberal Democrat Council Group, added: “Liberal Democrat councillors are very concerned that knife crime has been increasing in Southwark.
“We will be making sure that the council responds to the Mayor’s suggestions urgently and doing all that we can to engage with schools and youth clubs in the wards we represent.”
‘We need to stand up for those kids who are on the edge’
Serge Cefai, headteacher of Sacred Heart Catholic School, in Camberwell, said he would welcome knife wands in his school, and the use of stop and search, as he feared carrying a knife would become “the norm”.
“We had a knife arch last time when things were bad and then we were given some wands,” said Mr Cefai, who is also executive head of St Thomas the Apostle College, in Nunhead, and St Matthew Academy, in Lewisham.
“I would not be against having them in school because kids know perfectly well that we will do a random search of their lockers and bags so we hope to deter anyone who’s stupid enough to bring a knife in. I would welcome the stop and search back; I’m worried that without the stop and search – or at least some kind of deterrent – we risk carrying a knife becoming the norm.
“We are going back to the dark ages when we used to have youth gang problems in Camberwell and Peckham fifteen to twenty years ago.
“We need to stand up for those kids who are on the edge, who are nice kids and don’t want to get involved but aren’t streetwise enough.”
Mr Cefai said each school had its own approach to tackling knife crime, and that Sacred Heart carried out its own stop and search “when necessary” and already had police officers allocated.
“This [knife crime] is a national problem but it’s also a borough problem and has been for a long, long time,” he said. “I would prefer it if society took the bull by the horns and said we are not putting up with it and we are going to start searching people in the streets.
“It might not stop the hardcore gangsters, but it might deter the youngsters who are looking for a reason to say they aren’t going to do it.
“We have had incidents over the years where knives have been found and permanent exclusions have followed, the police have followed, and the last two incidents have been kids who we would not describe as gangsters.”
‘They have left this for too long’
Richard Taylor, the father of ten-year-old Damilola Taylor, who was fatally stabbed on a Peckham estate in 2000, said Sadiq Khan’s knife crime strategy was “good news” – but that the funding needed to go to the right places.
Mr Taylor, chair of the Damilola Taylor Trust, which works with young people aged fourteen to 24 in south London, added that he did not believe introducing knife wands to schools was the answer to tackling knife crime.
“It is good news that he [Sadiq Khan] is coming up with the policy,” Mr Taylor told the News.
“It’s long-awaited so it’s good news that it’s getting a step in the right direction but the problem is we want to see him doing something about it. We’ve done all that [using knife wands and arches in schools] many times before but it never works.
“It will make a difference but it’s not the answer; they know where to hide their knives.
“They won’t be able to take knives into the classroom or the school but the problem is outside of school – and they will hide the knives around the hedges or they will give them to their friends to hold on to.
“We need to talk to young people and parents and make sure they are handling the issue in the right way.”
Mr Taylor said the additional funding was “welcome” but that the important thing was where the money was dispersed.
“Who will benefit from it,” he said. “The money should go to the right charities who are really on the ground to deliver and address the issue.
“If they take it seriously this time there will be a reduction [in knife crime] but they have left this for too long.”