Most young Londoners feel safe in the capital, new survey reveals

25 January 2019
  • Three quarters of young people feel secure where they live and go to school according to MOPAC study
  • A quarter of young Londoners know someone who carries a knife or is in a gang
  • Sadiq is leading public health approach to tackling violence, including early interventions to prevent young people getting involved in crime


The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has issued a fresh warning to young Londoners about the risks of carrying knives and dangerous weapons as new figures reveal a mixed picture of their attitudes to crime and policing.


A large majority of young Londoners feel safe where they live and go to school, according to the study conducted by the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC).


However, a quarter say they know somebody who has carried a knife or is in a gang.


In the wake of the findings, Sadiq reminded Londoners that there is no honour in young people staying silent if they see their friends falling into a life of crime, and that everyone has a responsibility to act and report criminal activity to the police in order to keep their families, friends and communities safe.


MOPAC’S Youth Voice Survey, part of the Mayor’s commitment to engage with communities to help tackle violent crime, received almost 8,000 responses from young Londoners aged 11 -16 about their experiences of policing and crime in the capital and found that:


  • Most young people feel safe where they live (74 per cent) and at school (84 per cent).
  • Around a quarter of young people know someone who has carried a knife (26%) or who is in a gang (23%), with smaller proportions saying they have personally carried a knife or are in a gang (both three per cent).
  • Just over 1 in 10 (12 per cent) young people have been the victim of a crime in the last year.
  • Young victims are more likely to have a range of other vulnerabilities, including exposure to serious youth violence and wider wellbeing issues.


Sadiq has made tackling crime a priority and has set up London’s Violence Reduction Unit to divert people away from violence by making interventions at an early age and providing young Londoners with better, positive life opportunities. He has proposed £6.8 million from the next financial year’s budget on top of an initial £500,000 investment to mobilise the unit, as well as committed to increasing the number of Safer Schools Officers in London to work collaboratively with schools and education establishments to help drive down knife crime.


This approach must work alongside enforcement, which is why Sadiq continues to support the Metropolitan Police Service and its City Hall-funded Violent Crime Taskforce, which has made more than 2,300 arrests and removed in excess of 1,000 knives and dangerous weapons from the streets of London. These interventions are in the face government’s repeated cuts to vital youth services since 2010 and enforced cuts of more than £1bn on the Metropolitan Police. Local authorities have had their youth service budgets cut by almost 50 per cent, resulting in the closure of 81 youth centres and the loss of at least 800 full-time youth workers in the capital*.


The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “These findings lay bare the challenge London faces in keeping our young people safe. While it is reassuring that the majority of under-16s feel safe in the capital, many still know someone that carries a knife or is in a gang, or lacks confidence in the police.

“The police recognise how important it is that they do more to build relations with all of London’s communities and, through more investment in targeted projects to get to the root causes of crime such as my Young Londoners Fund, the aim is to help make the city safer. However, neither of these is made any easier by a decade of austerity which has ripped £1billion a year from police, and starved local councils, mental health services and schools of the money so critical to rooting out the deprivation and inequality that can too often lead to crime.


“And while the police and other public agencies have a big role to play, so do communities themselves. Parents, friends, families and neighbours must also help in tackling serious youth violence. We all have a duty to send a clear and unequivocal message to all Londoners that it is totally unacceptable to carry a knife. And that there is no honour in staying silent if you know someone is carrying a knife – you are not protecting a friend of sibling, instead you are putting their life and the lives of others at risk.”


The survey also found that young people have a mixed opinion of the police, with half having a good opinion of police officers, although many were yet to form a strong opinion. Almost half of young victims of crime made a report to the police (44 per cent) but less than a third of those (29 per cent) were happy with how officers dealt with their report. The survey also showed that:


  • Having a known Safer Schools Officer can benefit young people’s feelings of safety at school. Furthermore, good relationships with Safer Schools Officers can also improve young people’s overall opinions of the police in general.
  • Polite and respectful interactions during Stop and Search are vital, as poor interactions can have negative impacts on young people’s overall opinions of the police. Less than half of the young people who said they had been Stopped and Searched felt the police treated them well when carrying it out.


John Poyton, Redthread's CEO, said: “The survey's findings are encouraging in that the majority of young people do feel safe which reflects on the amazing support they receive from their community, family, schools, peer groups, police, hospitals and the third sector. While the results are positive, one young person caught up in violence is one too many. We must now focus our efforts on making communities even safer. Adopting a public health approach in London and across the rest of the UK is essential to tackling the root causes of all violence in society.”


Sherry Peck, CEO at Safer London, a charity working directly with those affected by gang and youth violence, said: “At a time when there is increased coverage of youth violence in the media it is reassuring that the majority of young people surveyed feel safe  in London.


“Safer London are keen to work alongside the range of partners, utilising a public health approach, who are engaging young people and their families in order to keep themselves and communities safe and support them to live free from the risk of exploitation, gangs and youth violence.”


Clare Coghill, Leader of Waltham Forest Council, said: “Increasing the number of police officers in schools is exactly the right approach to helping to tackle the rise in youth violence. We need our young people to be able to trust and work with the police as they are key to preventing and tackling the violence that destroys lives across the capital.


“There is no honour in young people staying silent if they see people they know falling into a life of crime, everyone has a responsibility to report crimes to the police in order to keep their families, friends and communities safe.

Notes to editors

* London’s Lost Youth Services report (Sian Berry, 2018):  


The Youth Survey received 7,832 responses from 11 to 16-year-olds about their views on crime and safety issues that affect them, via Metropolitan Police Safer Schools Officers. The survey is available here:


Safer Schools Officers are dedicated police officers WHO work collaboratively with schools and education establishments to help drive down knife crime in schools. The Mayor’s Police and Crime Plan committed to increasing the number of schools officers and making sure they are available across the range of schools, including Pupil Referral Units where some of those at highest risk of offending are educated. As of November 2018, there were 333 Safer Schools Officers in London.


In September 2018, Sadiq announced his intention to establish the Violence Reduction Unit to build on a public health approach already underway at City Hall, expanding the work of the Mayor’s Knife Crime Strategy to include wider types of violence and look to address the links between violence in the home and on the street.


In November 2018, Sadiq announced that the Violence Reduction Unit will carry out serious case reviews into all homicides and serious violent incidents in the capital since 2014 as an analytical tool for the Violence Reduction Unit to better understand common patterns of all types of violence, including local serious case reviews of all homicides.


The Mayor has made tackling knife and violent crime a key priority. He has invested an additional £140 million in the Met over the last two years, which includes £15m on the Violent Crime Taskforce, specifically to help tackle knife crime. The Mayor and the Commissioner took the difficult decision to move 122 officers from the Met’s Roads and Transport Policing Command to boost the taskforce, which is helping to keep dangerous criminals, weapons and drugs off London's streets.


Every single London borough now has a bespoke Knife Crime Action Plan created in partnership with the Met Police and every school and college can now receive a knife wand, to help keep young people safe and prevent knife crime at school. 250 schools in London have taken up the Mayor's offer of a knife wand.


Sadiq has also invested £45 million in the Young Londoners Fund - a brand-new fund for local communities and charities to help young people fulfil their potential particularly those who are at risk of getting caught up in crime.


As part of the Mayor’s Public Health approach, he has confirmed he is investing £1.4 million to continue to provide youth workers in Major Trauma Centres and place more youth workers in hospital A&E departments to help steer young Londoners who have been involved in knife crime away from violence in the future. Combined with the Mayor’s Young Londoner’s funding this brings total investment in specialist youth support in hospitals to £2.7 million between 2018-2020. This will continue alongside the work of the Violence Reduction Unit.


The Mayor’s first anti-knife crime media campaign, ‘London Needs You Alive’, launched in November. The campaign brings together role models and social media youth ‘influencers’ to encourage young people away from carrying a knife, focusing on their talent and worth to the capital. With hundreds of thousands of social media followers between them, leading grime artist Yungen, MC Bossman Birdie, photographer Tom Sloan and urban poet Hussain Manawer are among those supporting it. To date this campaign has been viewed 4,043,390 times by Londoners.

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