The London knife crime strategy

The MOPAC London Knife Crime Strategy  was published last week (June 2017). Catch22 Director of Social Justice and Rehabilitation, Peter Jones talks us through it in this guest post.

London – A Safer Place For All

 MOPAC’s new London knife-crime strategy was published this week with an important key message:

We must not accept that crime and violence is a forgone conclusion for any young person regardless of their circumstances – we will not give up on them.

 The plan sets out a positive and pro-active strategy for combating knife crime in London through measures focused on partnership and community working, better support for victims, prison rehabilitation and through the gate support, employment and education, the impact of the online world and media, as well as prevention and targeted action.

Partnership and Community Working

 No one person or organisation has all the answers to knife crime.

The plan sets the stage for a more defined role for community organisations within commissioning. The plan commits to empower communities with seed funding and targeted ‘toolkits’ for grass-roots activities led by young people and community groups to help protect, nurture and skill-up London’s children and young people.

For long term change we need parents and families, schools and youth groups, and communities to come together to discourage and prevent knife carrying, as well as the media, businesses and other influencers to do their part to make spaces where young people spend their time – online, at school, town centres, outdoors and at home – safe.

 A clear acknowledgement that multiple and complex needs often play a role in the criminal justice journey of a young person is crucial if we are going to be able to tackle the problem effectively and support young people away from offending pathways. The plan highlights the need for more effective, joined-up commissioning with existing mental health services.

Better Support for Victims

 The Police and Crime Plan for London set out a much-needed, clear and defined commitment to improving support for victims in the capital. Recent months have seen the launch of Catch22 led Restore:London, a new pan-London restorative justice programme for victims of crime, as well as a new MOPAC App to report instances of hate crime.  This plan goes further to continuing the commitment, with a £2million pledged to increase support for young victims of crime – including knife crime – and their families through a ‘Children and Young Persons Victims Service’ from 2018-2020. There is also a commitment to the role that restorative justice, can and should play for both victims and offenders.

Prison Rehabilitation and Through The Gate support

The plan sets out a focus on rehabilitation for offenders as a conduit to preventing knife crime. The plan identifies the critical nature of the transaction point of an offender entering back into community and says that more needs to be done to address behaviour and complex emotional and mental health challenges at this point.

‘A public health rather than purely criminal justice approach – that focuses on creating positive change, addressing underlying vulnerabilities, reducing risk factors and strengthening protective factors has been shown to be most effective in reducing knife crime.’

 The plan sets a strategy for the development of a better prison-pathfinder to enable more offenders to be sentenced closer to home in order to strengthen family and community relations, as well as providing a continuity of services on release and encouraging restorative justice support. Complex mental health needs, drug and alcohol issues as well as routes to education and employment are also highlighted.

Employment and Education

 We all know the importance of early intervention. The work we do at the criminal justice end of the journey is so often a reflection of what has or hasn’t happened at the start of a young person’s life. The plan lays out routes to better safeguarding, early years intervention, effective schools programmes and summer activities, as well as the impact of employability programmes.

The plan commits to working to prevent young people from being drawn into gang crime through early intervention, school visits, employability training and offering support for those who want to change their lifestyle through programmes such as London Gang Exit, run by Safer London, Red thread and Only Connect.

The plan also looks at the role volunteering can play in supporting a young person to make positive life choices. The power of this shouldn’t be underestimated – I have seen the direct effect that programmes such as NCS can have on a young person’s confidence, development and outlook on life.

Online and Media

 We live in a world where access to the online world is easy and more portable than it has ever been before. While this offers a wealth of opportunity for communication, it also poses some very real risks when it comes to the provocation of real-time youth violence and knife crime. We very much welcome the focus on the challenges posed by the online world which is set out in this plan. Catch22’s report looking at Social Media as a catalyst and trigger for youth violence echoes a lot of the issues raised, including the need for more work to be done with social media companies.

The plan also outlines a large-scale media campaign to be launched in the autumn, including toolkits for schools and community groups. It’s important that, as a sector, we ensure that the media campaign is positive – sensationalism and scaremongering, as well as the promotion of counterproductive strategies can be detrimental to developing positive routes for young people away from knife crime, with community backing.

The proactive and positive nature of this plan is key to tackling the issues of knife crime and youth violence more broadly. Joined-up interventions targeted at understanding the background, health and motivations of a young person engaged in criminal activity are vital if we are going to effectively stamp out knife crime in London. Understanding and bettering the rehabilitative process and prison-community pathways are also essential parts of this journey. Greater impetus on victim support and restorative justice is essential to making our communities safer for all.

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