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View from the House: Police cuts and austerity fuel violence

PUBLISHED: 10:30 21 March 2019

Chris McAndrew (Creative Commons licence CC BY 3.0)

Kamali Gabbidon-Lynck was only 19 when he died on the streets of Wood Green last month from multiple stab wounds.

A young life lost, a family devastated, and a community shaken. The following weekend two more young lives were lost in east London and Greater Manchester. Since then, a teenager has been hospitalised after a stabbing on the 134 bus.

It’s happening far too often.

The proportion of under-18s being cautioned, reprimanded or convicted for carrying a knife in England and Wales is at its highest for eight years. When I joined police and local councillors on a walkabout in the area where Kamali was killed, the residents we spoke to were fearful, but they weren’t surprised.

That’s desperately worrying because violence must never become normalised. As well as meeting with residents, I’m working with local traders through the Wood Green Business Improvement District because it’s crucial Wood Green doesn’t become a place where youngsters think they can fight out their differences. I will do everything in my power to stop that spiral.

It isn’t only knife crime, which is at its highest level since records began. Locally, we’re seeing a worrying rise in moped muggings, the use of firearms and assaults of young people coming home from school.

There is no one easy solution to this crisis, but the Prime Minister is fooling no one when she tries to pretend slashing police numbers during her time as home secretary has had no impact. Since 2010, over 21,000 police officers, 16,000 police staff and 6,000 community support officers have gone despite repeated promises to protect the frontline. London’s Labour mayor Sadiq Khan has raised the policing precept as much as he’s allowed to fund extra officers, but it beggars belief that the Tory government is refusing to reverse its savage cuts and provide long-term certainty of funding to recruit the officers London needs. Last year, following another tragic killing in my constituency, I met with the home secretary to urge him to cancel proposed future cuts to the police, but my pleas fell on deaf ears. I’ve written to him again following the latest fatality, but I’m not holding my breath.

Nor can police cuts be taken in isolation. Nine years of austerity under the Tories and the Lib Dem coalition has seen youth services and other preventative activities decimated, schools struggling to cope, and families pushed to the brink.

I’ve been a member of the all-party parliamentary group on knife crime since it was first formed and we invited 15 young people who’ve served sentences for knife offences to Parliament to speak to MPs. They covered many issues, from poverty to mental health, social media to the fears they had about their own safety. One of the key findings was a lack of services for young people.

In Parliament, I’ve asked the secretary of state for communities and local government if he would consider a special fund for children at risk of school exclusion and am pleased he’s agreed to meet to discuss this further. It’s crucial because Haringey’s own research on the 20 most prolific offenders found 65 per cent were failing at school by age 10 with 11 being the average age of their first fixed or permanent exclusion. Youth workers regularly talk about the “PRU to prison pipeline” of disengaged young people in pupil referral units getting into a cycle of trouble. I welcome the £750,000 Haringey’s Labour Council will be investing into youth services but it’s incredibly tough for local councils who have seen their budgets decimated by Tory austerity. The government needs to step up, recognise that this is a public health crisis and it needs a cross governmental urgent response that tackles the causes and the consequences of this violent crime epidemic that is sweeping our streets.

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