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View from the House: Taskforce ready to tackle youth violence

PUBLISHED: 12:30 21 February 2019

Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0)

Camden is one of the most diverse and vibrant boroughs in the country. It’s a community I’ve lived in for more than two decades and have been proud to represent in Parliament since 2015.

For the vast majority of our young people, Camden is a safe and welcoming place to live and grow up in. For some, though, the fear of street violence has become a part of everyday life.

Like the rest of the capital, Camden has seen a steady rise in knife crime over recent years. The tragic death of two young men in Kentish Town last February was a stark reminder of the human cost of this violence – and they were by no means isolated incidences.

Something had to be done. That was the message I heard loud and clear from residents. Families of the victims told me that it was our responsibility as politicians to help fix this – and they were right.

That’s why in November 2017, with colleagues from Camden Council, I helped to set up the Youth Safety Taskforce to investigate the causes and nature of youth violence in our borough.

It wasn’t easy. Over nine months the taskforce undertook an extensive engagement exercise, with numerous meetings held with residents and young people from across the community. The conversations we had were difficult – and they were emotional.

But what struck me the most was the determination of everyone to come together; the determination of everyone to ensure we all play our part in providing a better future for our young people.

We cannot root out the causes of this type of crime overnight. However, we are making a start. In September, the taskforce published its initial report outlining the 17 recommendations for action.

Half a million pounds has been allocated by the council to invest in a “public health approach” to tackling violence, which will provide funding for schools, charities, the police and local government to work collaboratively with one another on the issue.

University College Hospital is working with charity groups to support patients who find themselves in A&E because of youth or gang violence. And the police are now working with the council to provide support to young people who find themselves in custody.

The conversation with our community is continuing too. Last week in King’s Cross, a packed room of people from the Somali community met me, council leader Georgia Gould, and the new police borough commander to discuss youth safety and what more we can do together.

I do not underestimate the scale of this challenge.

However, I do believe we are building the foundations for a safer and more inclusive community and I’m determined to continue working with the taskforce on this issue.

I would urge all of those with an interest – whether you are business, charity or resident – to get involved too by visiting camden.gov.uk/youthsafetytaskforce or emailing youthsafety@camden.gov.uk.

As ever, it’s a busy month ahead. If you would like to contact me on the work of the Youth Safety Taskforce, or any other matter, then please email me at keir.starmer.mp@parliament.uk or contact my office on 020 7219 6234.

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