Knife Crime is an Issue For Young People

In a recent national survey for the Youth Select Committee, young people were asked what their biggest concern was.

It wasn’t exams or whether they would get a place at college or a job.

It was knife crime.

They even called their report, ‘Our Generation’s Epidemic – Knife Crime’.

It’s a dispiriting thought that whether our children live in villages or urban centres they should be anxious in this way.

In South Yorkshire we are determined to tackle this, in two ways.

First, the police have a role.

Many, if not most, knife incidents are a by-product of drug-dealing gang rivalries.

This is why the police are targeting the gangs.

We can expect more disruption of their activities and more arrests in the months to come.

But second, we must get upstream of crime and prevent young people being drawn into gangs in the first place.

This is why last year we set up a Violence Reduction Unit – a VRU.

The Violence Reduction Unit is longer-term, looking at the root causes of violence.

It brings together a range of organisations who can all make a contribution – such as the local authorities, school exclusion units, the NHS, voluntary bodies, the police.

If we can understand the causes of violence correctly we can make the interventions that will bring it down.

We can also avoid those interventions that don’t help.

We are just completing our findings – where violence happens, what causes people to become violent, and what interventions actually work in reducing it.

Some of it is no surprise.

We recognise the hotspots, we know about the lack of youth activities, the dropping out of school, the lack of jobs.

But some of it is a big challenge – because many young people are exposed to violence from a very young age.

They are raised in families where violent and aggressive behaviour is the norm.

But for me, the most important thing is recognising or discovering what can make a real difference.

Some of that understanding will come from those who have experienced violence and learnt how to behave differently, including young people.

We can learn from them.

This is where our time and energy and, yes, resources, must be focussed.

We have to get this right.

We cannot have another generation of young people being alienated from mainstream society and drawn to violence.

We cannot have another generation putting knife crime at the top of the list of things that worry them most.