Andrew Dismore

News from Andrew Dismore: Youth violent and knife crime briefing July 18

24 July 2018

In the 2017/18 financial year, homicide rose by 51% in London.[1]


Knife crime rose by 21% in the 2017/18 financial year in London.[2]


In the year to June 2018, the Met recorded 142 cases of homicide with 88 being knife related.[3]


There have been at least 51 fatal stabbings in London since the start of the year (as of 6th July).[4]


The Commissioner said in June 2018 that the Met is “beginning to see some stabilisation and indeed even potential reductions” in violent crime, particularly in the stabbings of young people under 25.[5] MOPAC, in its latest quarterly report, notes that while knife crime is at higher overall levels than previous years “Key indicators suggest a stabilisation of the upward trend”. Quarter 4 offences decreased 5.8% (210 offences) from quarter 3’[6]


In the 2017/18 financial year in London, gun crime fell by 5% but the number of lethal barrel discharges (the number of times a gun is fired) has risen by 23%.[7]


Across the UK, knife crime rose by 22% and gun crime rose by 11% in 2017.[8]



Police Enforcement


The Met have established a violent crime taskforce comprised of 158 officers who will coordinate the Met-wide response to serious violence. The officers will not only gather intelligence on knife and gun crime but will also act on all forms of violent crime by focusing on policing hotspot areas, using stop and search and disrupting activity such as street robbery before violence escalates. [9]


In addition to the taskforce 88 officers (and 166 officers at weekends) will be on patrol in dedicated violence-response units. These units provide an agile police response based on intelligence about violent crime and go to hotspot areas to tackle violent crime.[10]


In June 2017- May18, 970 knives have been recovered from London’s streets, together with 98 firearms. The Met has also made 166 arrests for offensive weapons.[11]


During the course of 2017 and 2018, 106 ‘Section 60’ authorisations were issued. We have seen this increase significantly recently, with 95 issued across London from January to April this year.[12] (Section 60s allow stop and search in a defined geographical area for a limited time without a need for the police to demonstrate reasonable belief that violence has or is about to occur).


Mayoral Action and Prevention


In his most recent budget, the Mayor has invested £110 million in the police in 2018/19 to plug some of the gap left by Government cuts. £15million of this will be spent directly on knife crime (funding the violent crime taskforce).


 The Mayor has recently announced a £45 million ‘Young Londoner’s Fund’, over £3.5million of which is directly focused on knife crime.[13]


The Mayor published a Knife Crime Strategy, in June 2017, which included a package of tough and comprehensive measures to tackle knife crime. It was the first by a London Mayor.


Every borough now has a dedicated knife crime action plan in place and these are currently being refreshed. A MOPAC summit in June 2018 focused on practical steps to improve these local action plans.


The ‘London Needs You Alive‘ public information campaign has been launched, with over 3.7 million views.[14]


Community Engagement

In April 2018, the Commissioner wrote that the police are being met with a ‘wall of silence’ in some cases as victims do not want to cooperate with the police when they are the victims of serious crimes such as knife crimes.[15] At a knife crime summit arranged by MOPAC on 27th June, Assistant Commissioner Martin Hewitt said that the lack of information came not only from victims but also from other witnesses to serious violent crime incidents. Mr Hewitt used the example of the fatal stabbing of a 15-year-old boy in Romford which took place at a house party which 200 people were attending – despite which the Met have not had a single witness come forward to provide information to the police.

In the Police and Crime Committee (PCC) in May 2018, Len Duvall AM asked Assistant Commissioner Helen Ball how the Met were encouraging people to come forward and report their concerns about knife crime. AC Ball responded:

We want to have different ways of encouraging different groups of people to talk to us. Certainly, in my experience, one of the best things is stable, trusted figures in that community. It might be your Safer Neighbourhoods Dedicated Ward Officer. It might be a Schools Officer. It might be a teacher or someone from the youth service. It is all of those people being stable and trusted. If they are known, then people are more likely to tell them things, even to tell them in confidence with anonymity, but to tell them information. Quite a lot of our approach is making sure that communities understand and see and work with and work alongside officers in those stable and trusted positions. Then there are some members of the community who would use Crimestoppers and, certainly, we would regularly inform people about the Crimestoppers number and the other ways of telling Crimestoppers and the value and the confidentiality of it. It is a trusted means of getting in touch for some people. Then there are some people in communities who do not trust Crimestoppers. They are wrong. It is confidential and the calls cannot be traced, but they do not trust Crimestoppers. For those, we need to have more of a covert human intelligence source approach that really respects their concerns and their fears and is very secure around the confidentiality with which they are treated.’[16]

However, it is unclear as to how this problem should be viewed (let alone solved). It could be argued that the police and other public-sector agencies must do more to show that they are willing and present to listen to concerns and make themselves available to hear about the concerns of members of the public.


Moreover, we know that both the police and other public sector agencies have got it wrong in the past and have been warned about violent offenders but have not acted.  Looking at the case studies it could be argued that more needs to be done when public sector agencies do receive information.


Common themes in/causes of youth violence


The Home Office’s serious violence strategy states: ‘children excluded from school are overrepresented in young offender populations. They are also overrepresented as victims of serious violence.’[17]


When asked at a recent PCC meeting which was investigating serious violence, a respondent said of the young offenders which she worked with: ‘I would say all 20 of them have been excluded from school. That is the issue for me. It is the fact they get excluded from school, for very little reasons quite often, quite young. Then they are out on the street therefore then they are getting pulled into it. One of my biggest issues with Hackney particularly - I do not know about the other boroughs - is that most of the schools are academies now. They are really, really strict. The young people can build up a certain amount of behavioural issues and then they are excluded, or they are managed moved out of the borough and, therefore, they do not come up in the schools’ figures as an exclusion because obviously they need to get the good results. The young people are rejected at 11 and sent to another school in another borough.’[18]


Evidence highlights that there are a range of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) which are significant predictors of at least one form of serious violence. These experiences can be diverse and complex and include childhood neglect, childhood abuse, parental criminality and parental substance misuse.[19] Police Scotland’s public health approach has looked at addressing and preventing adverse childhood experiences as a way to combat serious violent crime.[20]


‘County lines’ are another factor in the rise in serious violence. In particular, ever younger people are being groomed by gangs to carry drugs and commit violent acts as part of the county lines drug market. At  the 27th June Knife Crime Summit, Assistant Commissioner Martin Hewitt warned that younger people were being drawn into violent crime – in part due to county lines as older offenders believe younger people are less likely to be stop and searched. This has also led to gangs to focus on targeting more young girls.  


The head of Insight at MOPAC also told audience members at the June Knife Crime Summit, that the offender profile means that those that commit violence will have come into contact with a range of authorities a number of times whether that is housing, social care, the police, probation, schools, pupil referral units and so on. This means there are many successful opportunities to intervene and make a difference in that young person’s life before they commit serious violence.



Cuts and violent crime


At Parliament’s  Home Affairs Select Committee on 5th June, the Commissioner spoke about the impact of government cuts of violent crime:

‘of course austerity has probably had something to do with this, by which I mean of course the other services as well as the police. It would be naive to suggest that reduced numbers of officers on the street for a whole variety of reasons—I am talking across the country here—including reduced officer numbers overall has had no impact. I am sure it has had an impact, together with a whole series of other things, which I am happy to talk about.’[21]

Colette Allan (Director, Hackney Quest):

Something that really touched me this week was I was talking to a young person that came to Hackney Quest when he was younger and then, shockingly for me, ended up in prison for dealing. I just did not think he was involved in that life. I was asking him why he got involved in it. He said he had a single mum from Angola, his dad had left when he was five. He realised by the time he was about 12 that his mum was starving herself to give him what he needed. At that point he had been approached by people giving him money on his estate. They had obviously picked him out as vulnerable, even though he still appeared to be achieving and he was doing fine at school and whatever. He got pulled into it that way, to the point where he thought he was quite clever and got caught. That was really heartfelt, he did it because he wanted to help his mum. Then he realised he could make his money, help his mum and give her things that she had never had. We had a conversation about whether his mum knew what he was doing. He was pretty clever, therefore, he did hide it from her, obviously until he got caught and, therefore, he was not that clever… it has taken him a long time to get back from that. He is now a productive member of society but he has that on his record. Not many people are giving him a chance and that is really, really tough because his reasons for getting involved in it are probably similar to a lot of young people’s reasons for getting involved in it. They do not intend to go and get a knife or do something to somebody, it is not the intention. It is because of where they live very often, their peer groups and their siblings and it is really sad. Therefore, having diversionary activities for them is really important’.[22]



Youth violence Commission interim report


On 18 July the Youth Violence Commission, which was set up to examine the root causes of youth violence in England, Scotland and Wales, published its interim report. A final report will be published in Autumn 2018, but emerging recommendations include:


  • The production of a national plan for the implementation of a public health approach to youth violence.
  • All professionals who have a statutory responsibility for the safeguarding and wellbeing of young people should be trained in the significance of Adverse Childhood Experiences
  • An urgent review and revitalisation of Childhood Centres.
  • The establishment of a National Youth Policy Framework which makes the provision of youth work a statutory duty for both local authorities and central government.
  • An overhaul of funding arrangements for youth services.
  • A greater role for faith groups in tackling youth violence.
  • An aspiration of zero exclusions from mainstream education.
  • Increased teaching of ‘softer skills’ in school to support employment.
  • An increase in community policing.
  • a comprehensive review of the UK’s current approach to drugs legislation and policing.




[1] Met Police Data, Yearend crime statistics 2017/18, accessed 10/05/18.

[2] Met Police Data, Yearend crime statistics 2017/18, accessed 10/05/18.

[3] MOPAC, Weapons Based Dashboard, accessed 10/07/18

[4] The Sun, Lawless London: London Stabbings 2018, 6th July 2018.

[5] Meeting of the Home Affairs Select Committee, 5 June 2018

[7] Met Police Data, Yearend crime statistics 2017/18, accessed 10/05/18.

[8] The Guardian, Surge in knife and gun crime in England and Wales, 26th April 2018, accessed 10/05/18.

[9] Metropolitan Police Briefing (sent to Assembly Members on the 2nd May)

[10] Metropolitan Police Briefing (send to members 2nd May)

[12] Mayor of London, Mayor’s Question Time Oral Response 21st June 2018, accessed 12/07/18.

[14] Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime Sophie Linden, Police and Crime Committee 6th June 2018, accessed 12/07/18.

[15] Commissioner Cressida Dick, Murders are becoming harder to solve, Met Police Commissioner Admits, April 2018, accessed 12/07/18.

[16] Assistant Commissioner Helen Ball, Police and Crime Committee 15th May 2018, accessed 12/07/18.

[17] HM Government, Serious Violence Strategy, April 2018, accessed 12/07/18.

[18]  Colette Allan (Director at Hackney Quest), Police and Crime Committee 24th May 2018, accessed 12/07/18.  

[19] HM Government, Serious Violence Strategy, April 2018, accessed 12/07/18.

[20] Community Justice Ayrshire, Aryshire division to become trauma informed, accessed 12/07/18.

[21] Cressida Dick ,Home Affairs Select Committee 5th June 2018 session, accessed 12/07/18.

[22] Colette Allan (Director at Hackney Quest), Police and Crime Committee 24th May 2018, accessed 12/07/18.  


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