Features News

Reducing knife crime is a struggle that involves us all

StopWatch is turning a spotlight on stop and search and campaigning against the overpolicing of marginalised communities. Reducing knife crime isn’t just about stop and search.

By Shenna Darcheville, Youth Voice Lead and research coordinator of StopWatch

The cover of 'stop and search a guide for parents and children'
Stop and Search: a guide for parents and children

StopWatch has been around just over 10 years. It started with a coalition of lawyers and academics doing behind-the-scenes work: politics, campaigning, writing academic papers. More recently, we’re being a bit more visible to the community, providing legal advice and services, workshops and education.

At The Peel we’ve been speaking to young people about their stop and search rights including things like how a stop should be properly conducted: what a young person should do if they are approached by the police; what to do if they’re unhappy with the experience and if they are unhappy, how to make complaints.

We’re also running an eight-week Youth Changemaker programme at The Peel. It will take about an hour and a half a week, and will go out to those who want to make an impact in their community. As part of this we’ll go on to to recruit a Youth Advisory Group – including young people at The Peel. It’s because we want our work to be championed and led by young people. A lot of talk about young people happens when they’re not in the room, so the group will be trained to speak for themselves. Alongside this we are also specifically looking to speak to girls and young women about their experiences with the police, as part of the StopWatch girls project. We hope to use these stories to build a national campaign and create change in the way that girls and women are handled by the police.

A lot of times, the media and police capitalise on knife crime incidents to ramp up the need for stop and search. However, statistics show that a very small percentage of searches actually result in a weapon being taken off the streets. The focus needs to be on why young people are carrying knives, and we advocate early intervention – educating young people around the dangers and consequences of knife crime.

People underestimate what community groups like The Peel can do. When young people have somewhere they can go, and meet people such as youth workers, they find common ground. It creates a sense of community and then everyone doesn’t feel so removed from each other. Young people are often seen as a problem rather than people who can actually bring value to society. If we make them feel that way, it gives them a sense of purpose.

Some young people drift towards gangs because of a lack of role models and positive engagement outside of school hours. Increasing pressures on parents may be part of it – they cannot be on top of it all the time.

But the young people may not have anything else to do, plus there have been a lot of cuts to youth support groups. But parents also need to understand and prevent if they feel their child is going down the wrong road. It’s a matter for everyone as not all people involved in knife crime come from difficult backgrounds. If knife crime is happening in in your area, it’s everyone’s problem and if a child has been a victim they’re more susceptible to carrying a knife themselves to protect themselves – the key reason why the majority of young people carry knives.

The main thing to do is to look out for your child and notice changes in behaviour. See who they’re hanging out with; make a point to get to know their friends. Also, don’t get lulled into a false sense of security because your child is at home a lot, as social media can be a way of portraying a certain image of themselves such as using violence to express how manly they are, to fit in as part of group and think, this makes me feel big. If that’s the only way you feel like you can get a little bit of power and respect, maybe that is what you’ll do.

It’s girls too. In more indirect ways girls can be part of knife crime: hiding and carrying, perpetuating violence through being enablers. But again, it’s lack of education. In a lot of workshops I’ve done, when you explain the consequences they think twice.

There have been a lot of workshops with the police and many are successful. But there is an issue throughout the police force and it really is a system that needs to be reconstructed. You can have more successful community initiatives, but it’s not enough. So do things with young people that are not just about crime, but are about their local communities.

There is more scope for community policing, with officers being more visible in positive circumstances – making sure that they’re there in good times as well as bad. So speak to young people, be part of what they’re doing, maybe help them put on events that are important to them such as music events or football tournaments, let them see you can be there when they need you and support them in positive activities. If there’s a football tournament put on by the Metropolitan Police, you can show that it’s possible to do positive things – and it won’t be that the only time these young people will be in contact with the police is when they are stopped and searched.

Come along to our taster day at The Peel, Three Corners Centre, Northampton Rd, London, EC1R 0HU on Tuesday 18th July at 5pm to hear more about both these projects, or contact [email protected] for more information.

You can find ‘Stop and Search: a guide for parents and children’ at the StopWatch website

AdBlocker Message

Our website is made possible by displaying online advertisements to our visitors. Please consider supporting us by disabling your ad blocker.

About EC1 Echo

EC1 Echo is your free local independent community news website. We publish stories to the web across the week and offer a platform for local people to highlight what matters to them. EC1 Echo is a not-for-profit project in partnership with the Peel Institute. Please consider becoming a subscriber supporter from £3.00 per month.
We need your help

Submit your listing here