Homelessness Change and Platform for Life

Fear is fuelling violence among London’s young people

20 September 2016
  • The number of victims of serious youth violence[1] has risen in the capital by over 20 per cent since 2012-13.
  • Half of all reports of youth violence in London involve a knife.

A report published today by the London Assembly Police and Crime Committee‘Serious Youth Violence[2]’ – assesses the reasons behind the rise in youth violence in the capital and examines other emerging trends involving young people as both victims and perpetrators of violent crime.  

The report found that a dominant driver for the increase, particularly of knife crime, is the belief among young people that they need to be prepared to defend themselves. This is driven by a misconception of the volume of weapons on the streets, as well as fear fuelled by incidents that occur in their communities.

The report recommends that if a serious incident occurs, there needs to be a concerted effort by the police and other agencies to reassure young people that they are safe and to tackle the immediate sense of danger. This may be through intelligence led stop and search, more visible patrols, or by agencies working with local youth clubs and schools.

Other findings of the report include:

  • Serious youth violence is not solely a gang issue. Data provided to the Committee shows that gangs are involved in a relatively small amount of serious youth violence: just under five per cent in 2015-16.
  • Almost a quarter of all victims of serious youth violence in the capital—around 1,500—are young women.
  • Under-reporting among young people is a problem and greater awareness of the different ways young people can report anonymously is needed.

 

Chairman of the Police and Crime Committee, Steve O’Connell AM, said:

“In light of the rise in serious youth violence in London, the Committee met with police and those organisations working with young people to identify the reasons for this worrying trend and to hear how it might be better prevented. We found that fear of violence is fuelling violence, and this is particularly the case with knife crime.

The Committee found that gangs are involved in only a small amount of serious youth violence and it is, in fact, a far broader issue that affects a much wider section of Londoners. Stigmatising young people with the ‘gang member’ label is neither helpful nor accurate.

This report summarises our initial findings and the Committee will revisit the issue as part of our ongoing work to find out what progress has been made and what more needs to be done to support London’s young people.”

Notes to editors

  1. Serious youth violence measures the number of victims aged 1-19 of offences such as gun and knife crime, violence against the person, sexual offences and robbery, according to the Metropolitan Police.
  2.  Read the 'Serious Youth Violence’ report.
  3. Steve O’Connell AM, Chairman of the Police and Crime Committee, is available for interview – see contact details below.
  4. As well as investigating issues that matter to Londoners, the London Assembly acts as a check and a balance on the Mayor.