In the Media

Funding fears over London's anti-gang drive as knife crime figures rise

PUBLISHED November 3, 2011

London's attempt to emulate anti-gang strategies that have been successful in other cities could be undermined by government-imposed funding cuts, according to the borough where the Metropolitan Police's Connect scheme has been launched. Chris Robbins, leader of Labour-run Waltham Forest, has told London Assembly member Darren Johnson of the Green Party that his council's contribution to the initiative could be ended if an "underlying deficit of ?1 million" in the second and third years of the scheme cannot be remedied. The anti-gang drive targets known gang members with a stick-and-carrot approach, combining vigorous law enforcement with offers to help the young criminals involved to change their ways. Waltham Forest's carrot takes the form of a preventative programme called Enough Is Enough, which involves the London probation service and a variety of local community organisations. In a letter to Johnson, Robbins says Enough Is Enough is "predicted to cost ?3.5 million over the three years to 2014" and is funded "principally by the borough" with help to the tune of ?70,000 from the Greater London Authority. He describes himself as "cautiously optimistic" about the effects of the programme's initial phase, saying that approaches to 33 families containing gang members have yielded "an engagement rate of 80%." The Met too has been provisionally positive about Connect's effects in Waltham Forest in a report to the Metropolitan Police Authority last month (see paragraphs 24-26 ). Robbins's concern about the programme's future funding coincides with the government's providing only ?1.2 million in new money over a three year period for its entire national anti-gangs strategy, and is expressed in the context of continuing rises in knife crime and serious violent offences against young people in the capital reported to the police, both in recent months and over the three years since London mayor Boris Johnson came to power promising effective action against such crimes. Responding to the government's announcement, Labour's shadow home affairs minister Stella Creasy - who, coincidentally, is also MP for the Waltham Forest constituency of Walthamstow - accused the Mayor of being "unable to get his facts right on this critical issue" and failing to defend London boroughs against spending cuts that are hitting youth offending teams and other services. Creasy has released Metropolitan Police figures showing borough breakdowns of numbers of victims of all types of knife crime in the 13-24 age group since 2007/08. The knife crime category includes incidents where the victim was injured, threatened with a knife or where the assailant intimated possession of one. The figures show an 12% increase from last year (up from 6,460 offences to 7,231) and a 29% increase since 2008 for London as a whole (up from 5,600 in 2007/8 to 7,231 in 2010/11). Every borough except Bexley, Kingston and Redbridge has seen an increase over the longer period, with Merton (up 84%), Southwark (up 71%), Lambeth (up 63%) and Lewisham (up 63%) having the largest percentage rises. Southwark also recorded the largest number of knife crimes in 2010/11 with 523, followed by Newham (443) and Lambeth (407). The lowest number, 48, was recorded in Richmond. That was the news. My comment? Boris Johnson has put conspicuous tackling youth violence and knife crime, and the blame for the gloomy picture painted above cannot be laid at his door. But he has no excuse for giving the impression, as he sometimes has, that knife crime and serious violence against young people, whether gang-related or not, are have not been increasing since he took command of City Hall. Budget cuts to schemes that can help address these intolerable trends must be fought ferociously. Is our Conservative mayor doing enough? Boris Johnson London politics Crime Police Gangs London Dave Hill © 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds