Tackling knife crime at grassroots

By Tania Skae

We are delighted that the Mayor has today announced an increased package of £1.4 million to support to grassroots groups in London tackling knife crime.

Youth violence in London is at a worrying high. From 2016 to 2017, the rate of young people who were stabbed to death in the capital almost doubled.

What we have been seeing however, is often a focus on the criminality; on the weapon, the act and the perpetrator, however this approach ignores the real issues around why more and more young people are carrying and using weapons. Youth violence is much more complex, with a range of deep rooted, difficult, often sensitive challenges at play.

What we are thankfully starting to see now in London is a shift in attitude, where more people recognise that in order to understand and cure the rise in youth violence, we need to treat it like a disease. We need to adopt a multi-agency, long term approach that commits to understanding and solving the problems by examining the causes, prescribing appropriate treatment and investing in a long-term cure.

The role of community based organisations

I believe that community-based organisations have a unique and essential role to play in this response. These are locally informed grassroots groups who have the experience, expertise, trust and compassion to work in front line delivery, day-to-day and also long term response. They are directly tackling violent youth crime from within communities, they are locally informed and working from the ground up and as such, they play a powerful and unique role in providing solutions to tackle youth violence in London.

Community based organisations also provide support throughout the epidemic, at three key stages: 1. Prevention: they recognise triggers and react before and at first signs, providing early intervention support; 2. Crisis intervention: they are experts in providing immediate, emergency support and conflict mediation and 3. After care: they specialise in providing rehabilitation and long-term support.

What we now need in order to reduce the rising trends is a long-term commitment to working together, across sectors to understand and address the underlying issues that result in youth violence. And importantly, the unique and valuable role that community- based organisations play must be fully integrated into the response, from knowledge sharing to developing and delivering well planned, long term, funded solutions.

Coming soon: over the past two months I've been researching the issue and gathering insights from the community groups we work with at The London Community Foundation. Watch this space for the full report.