'This has to stop': Council pledge £500,000 after task force reports back on causes of youth crime
PUBLISHED: 12:40 21 September 2018 | UPDATED: 12:40 21 September 2018
Seven months to the day after a single winter night saw two young men stabbed to death, Camden's youth safety task force - led by Holborn and St Pancras MP Keir Starmer and Cllr Abdul Hai - last night recommended a series of measures to arrest the alarming upwards trend in youth violence in the borough.
The recommendations form part of the task force’s report, which was launched on Thursday at St Luke’s Church in Kentish Town, just yards from where teenager Abdikarim Hassan was stabbed in February.
The report identifies the growing drug market in the borough, fear amongst young people who “distrust the police” and the lack of employment opportunities as key factors in driving knife crime.
The council is putting £500,000 aside to implement the recommendations and develop a “public health approach” in an attempt to identify at risk young people and reduce violence across the community.
Aydarus Ahmed, who has lost a son and two nephews to knife crime, approved of the report, he felt time would show if it was enough.
Aydarus, whose nephew Sadiq Aadam Mohamed was killed on the same night – February 20 – as Abdikarim, told the Ham&High: “It’s all in there, it’s a comprehensive report. The question now though is will it be implemented? I hope so.”
He said society need to provide positive role models for young people and to account for the trauma refugee populations face, adding: “I still remember what I said at the first meeting. We can’t turn the clock back at all. At the same time it’s important to do much more. We must do more to help the others. If you look at all over London, it’s heartbreaking, to be honest.
“The reality is social media is a huge part of it, and hate crime is part of it. If we don’t speak out about the reality then nothing will change.”
Meanwhile, although the report affirms police stop and search tactics have contributed to the distrust of authority among some Camden communities, parents surveyed and most attendees – including Camden’s deputy youth MPs – agreed it was sometimes necessary. Camden and Islington’s borough commander Dr Iain Raphael defended the practice. Dr Raphael said: “Since I came into this job I’ve been working to improve how we’re seen in the community and build better relations. I want to do stop and search but do it in a better, well-targeted way.”
Over the task force’s lifespan, it spoke to hundreds of children, young people and parents, along with youth workers, mental health professionals, schools and the police. It was set up in response to crimes including the death of Sadiq Aadam Mohamed’s older brother, Mohamed Aadam Mohamed last September.
Keir Starmer said: “I firmly believe no young person should feel unsafe in our community. But for some young people, fear of violence has become part of everyday life. This has to stop. We have had such emotional meetings. Families have shouted at us, cried at us and told us it our responsibility to fix this.
“Accepting a whole Camden community approach is vital and we must all play our part.”
Cllr Hai said: “The council, residents, schools, businesses and community groups have come together with collective desire to improve youth safety in the borough and that is reflected in both the findings and recommendations of this report.
“I am pleased to be able to allocate council funding to help action some of these recommendations and am sure everyone will continue to work together as we look to reduce youth violence and exploitation in Camden.”
The report sets out 17 recommendations to tackle violence among young people. These include mobilising community groups, increasing early interventions with victims and perpetrators of crime and improving access to information for communities.
The public health approach is hoped to help reduce the causes of knive crime and youth violence by connecting schools, community groups, the police, the council and hospitals improve the lives of people at risk of becoming involved in crime.