Revealed: full links between poverty and violent crime in London

15 July 2019
  • New figures show link between violence and social inequality
  • Mayor to deliver major speech on the impact of austerity and causes of violent crime
  • Sadiq sets out Violence Reduction Unit funding to support schools, youth workers and young people 

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, will today deliver a major speech on the causes of crime, which comes as City Hall publishes analysis confirming a strong link between serious youth violence and Londoners affected by deprivation, poor mental health and poverty.

The new figures show that three-quarters of the boroughs in London with the highest levels of violent offending are also in the top 10 most deprived, while the same boroughs also have higher proportions of children under 20 living in poverty than the London average.

The statistics, in the most detailed study of the causes of violent crime ever undertaken in London, show that more than a quarter of all young Londoners live in the most deprived areas of the capital. It also reveals that serious youth violence in the capital started rising in 2012.

Addressing an audience of families of victims of knife crime, charities, the Met Police and those from the education, faith, health and community sectors, at a youth club in Bermondsey, the Mayor will set out the complex causes of violence. 

He will argue that only a long-term public health approach, which tackles the deep-rooted and engrained social and economic problems facing society – and includes strong police enforcement – can truly address the problem of violence crime. 

The Mayor will announce the key areas London’s Violence Reduction Unit is funding:

  • Expanding after-school provision in high-crime areas - following data showing that violent incidents involving young people aged 10-16 are more likely to happen at the end of the school day.
  • Supporting the often-difficult transition from primary to secondary school.
  • Supporting schools to reduce school exclusions.
  • Extra support for young people affected by domestic violence – following figures showing 13 per cent of serious youth violence victims are victims of domestic violence, and evidence of the link between involvement in violence and children witnessing violence in the home.
  • Supporting vulnerable parents – including those who are victims of domestic violence or sexual offences.
  • Providing better training for youth workers and establishing a Youth Action Group to inform the unit’s work.
  • And piloting programmes in prisons and Young Offender institutions.

This allocation of priority funding is data-led and also follows extensive consultation with communities most affected by knife and violent crime.  

Ahead of the summer holidays starting next week, the Mayor has also today announced he is funding 43 projects that will provide positive opportunities for 3,500 young people at risk of getting involved in crime. The £360,000 investment from his Young Londoners Fund will help young people during the holidays with half of the projects taking place in the wards in the top 10 per cent for rates of serious youth violence. These activities follow the £20.5m Sadiq has already invested from his £45m Young Londoners Fund on activities that are now benefitting 66,000 young Londoners. Details of projects available across every borough can be found on City Hall’s interactive online map at Activities stretch the length and breadth of the capital, but are especially concentrated in the 10 boroughs most affected by knife and violent crime.

On the causes of crime, Sadiq Khan is expected to say:

“The stark new analysis from City Hall truly lays bare the full extent of the relationship between serious youth violence and a whole range of socio-economic factors.  There are still some who say that to acknowledge this link between poverty, deprivation and crime is somehow to excuse criminality and to let the criminals off the hook.  I say this is dangerous rubbish. 

“The truth is if we allow children to be brought up in deprived conditions as a country, if we accept high rates of school exclusions, if we fail to tackle domestic and sexual violence, if we leave people in bad housing with a lack of employment and training opportunities, and if we decimate the very public services designed to support those most in need – as this Government has systematically done - then crime is quite simply much more likely to flourish.

“There’s never any excuse for criminality.  Those who commit crimes must pay for their actions.  But we have to face the reality that for some young people growing up today, violence has become normalised.  And - with hope at rock bottom, inequality higher than ever and an absence of positive opportunities - turning to crime and gangs has become an all too easy route to satisfy the lure of gaining respect and money – however misguided this is.”     

On the impact of government austerity, Sadiq Khan is expected to say:

“The rise in violent crime across the country is a complex issue - one that’s been obscured by short-term thinking for far too long. It’s time to be honest about the scale of the problem and honest about what it will take from all of us to fix this problem for good.

“The sad reality is the violence we’re seeing on our streets today is an appalling side-effect of increasing inequality and alienation caused by years of government austerity and neglect.  The lesson we must all learn is that you can’t cut police officers, public services, preventative measures and ignore the most vulnerable people in our country at the same time as keeping crime low.  These things are fundamentally incompatible. 

“The most depressing part of all of this that our city – our nation – is being robbed of young people with so much potential.  And if we don’t change our approach as a country, we risk another generation taking similar paths - paths that would not only detrimental to their future, but to everyone around them and society as a whole.”

On the public health approach, Sadiq Khan is expected to say:

“The public health approach that we are implementing from City Hall is about using police enforcement first to contain and stop the spread of violent crime, and then tackling the root causes to prevent it from happening in the first place.

“The police will always have a huge, and vital, role to play.  That’s why I’ll continue to support our overstretched and under-resourced police to do everything they can to stem the bloodshed and why I’ll continue to defend the tactics they’re successfully using to drive down violence, including targeted Stop and Search.

“At the same time, we’re investing in projects to provide new opportunities to young Londoners at risk of getting involved in crime, and looking to intervene at critical moments in young people’s lives when they’re experiencing things that could increase the chance of them getting involved in violence.” 

On what the Government needs to do, Sadiq Khan is expected to say:

“It’s clear the best time to stop violent crime is before it starts.  This is what we’re doing in London, but we need the Government to follow suit.  We’ve taken this approach as a country before, with great success, and it’s possible to do so again.  This means investing in our young people, investing in our communities and investing in our country so that we can expand opportunity for all. 

“It’s time for the Government to acknowledge that this is a national problem that requires an urgent national solution.  No more scratching around the edges.  We need a proper national strategy to tackle poverty and inequality, to support the most deprived communities in our country, and to provide our police with the long-term increase in funding they desperately need.”

Lib Peck, Director of London’s Violence Reduction Unit, said:

“A key part of the public health approach is to challenge the view that violence is inevitable and demonstrate that it is preventable. The analysis published today provides clear evidence that there is an even greater need for a different approach and way of doing things to break the cycle of violence in a young person’s life.

“We know enforcement can suppress violence, but it’s long-term solutions, backed up by proper investment that is needed. I’ve spent the last few months meeting and listening to more than 50 community groups in boroughs with the highest crime levels, because it’s important we understand what tools local people need to support and improve the lives of young people. We now have a series of programmes that we will be funding to tackle some of the key drivers of violence and I look forward to working to tackle this issue head on.”

Pastor Lorraine Jones, Director of Dwaynamics, said:

“I'm very pleased that we have a Mayor who is being honest and transparent by publishing data which shows that the vulnerability lies the most with our young people living in deprived areas. They are being victims of violence and abuse from a young age which has contributed to their underdevelopment, health and well-being.

“It is a very painful and traumatising time with yet more lives being taken on the streets of London, but I am confident because of the Mayor's response that we will not give up but be relentless in working together with one mind to end youth violence using the public health approach.

“It's a shame that the previous years of neglect have caused us to inherit increased violence, mental ill-health and deprivation which Sadiq Khan is combating with the creation of the Violence Reduction Unit, which is delivering the public health approach directly to the heart of where it's needed most - to our young families and the most deprived areas in London.

“The problem we have with the large numbers of exclusions from schools is frightening and I'm pleased that Sadiq is addressing the root causes of this to prevent this from happening and giving the schools the extra support they need. I have also seen Lib Peck spending hundreds of hours meeting with families, frontline services and young people to get the true scale and magnitude of their needs to ensure the VRU is making the interventions where they are needed most.”

Patrick Green, CEO of the Ben Kinsella Trust, said:

“It is The Ben Kinsella Trust’s position that knife crime is a symptom of deprivation and the lack of opportunity for young people.  The Mayor’s announcement supports our long-held view that knife crime needs to be seen as a public health issue.  It is critically important that we acknowledge that tackling knife crime needs a long-term commitment and will require sustainable funding to deliver effective results.  These initiatives announced by the Mayor today, and the work of London Violence Reduction Unit will go a long way toward addressing the surge of knife crime that has taken the lives of so many talented young people."

Rosemary Watt-Wyness, Chief Executive, London Youth, said:

“I believe that every single young Londoner has the right to be safe in their city and that there is a duty on all of us to make that happen. There is no single cause of violence and no simple solution, but giving young people positive options, safe places and trusted relationships has to be part of the answer.

“London Youth and our network of 450+ community youth organisations are committed to the public health approach to violence in London and support the Mayor’s Violence Reduction Unit. We will continue to work together with and for young people.”

Cllr Jas Athwal, London Councils’ Executive Member for Crime & Public Protection, said:

“London faces an immense challenge in reducing serious youth violence, and boroughs are fully committed to playing a proactive role in tackling violence and preventing vulnerable young people from getting involved in crime.

“Local council services are key to the public health approach to tackling this issue, but we’re operating in a context where boroughs have suffered a 63 per cent reduction in core government funding since 2010. These programmes funded through London’s Violence Reduction Unit will make an important difference on the ground. It’s crucial that London receives the resources it needs to address serious youth violence and keep Londoners safe.”

Notes to editors

Analysis document:

  • The boroughs with the highest rates of SYV victimisation are Westminster, Haringey, Southwark, Lambeth, Islington, Tower Hamlets, Camden, and Hackney. This is based on the number of victims per 1,000 young people aged under 25 in the Borough. When, the level of victimisation was considered (the total number of offences), the boroughs with the highest number of victims were: Westminster, Southwark, Tower Hamlets, Haringey, Enfield, Lambeth, Croydon, and Brent. Some Boroughs such as Camden and Hackney have high rates because of the active night-time economy, whereas others such as Brent have a high number of offences but lower rates because of they have a larger population than others.
  • He will use new comprehensive analysis, published today by City Hall, to confirm the strong relationship between young people living in poverty and in areas of high deprivation and the higher likelihood of being involved in serious youth violence. The analysis sets out of all forms of serious violence involving victims under the age of 25, and details of their offenders, bringing together the latest data between 2012 and 2018 from the Met Police, British Transport Police, NHS and the London Ambulance Service.

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