The Tories are in denial about violent crime. They need to study what works

05 Apr 2018
Police cuts and stop and search haven’t stopped the rise in knife attacks. May’s government needs to radically change tack writes Diane Abbott.

Overnight, two people were murderedin my part of London, bringing the number of killings in the capital to more than 50 since the year began. In all the talk about statistics and policy, it is important to remember the victims, whose lives have brutally ended, and the loved ones they leave behind. Their lives will never be the same again.
All of us have a duty to act responsibly and think clearly in respo nse to a crisis. Knee-jerk reactions and initiatives designed to grab a headline are not acceptable. We need to apply lessons learned from other parts of the UK and abroad in the fight against serious crime, including knife and gun crime.
The most recent victims are far from all gang members of popular stereotype, and the same seems to be true of the perpetrators who have been named. We appear to have entered a vicious circle, where cohorts ofyoung men, some of them gang members, are involved in very violent offences. Because of the greater presence of deadly weapons on the streets, others are more inclined to carry knives too. We must break that cycle.
But the government has been in denial about crime. This has distorted the true picture, and wrongly justifies its decimation of the police service. Police funding has been cut in real terms, and tens of thousands of police officers, community support officers and police staff have been axed, since the
Tories came to office in 2010.
But despite eight years in office, everyone else apparently is to blame, be they the big internet companies or London mayor Sadiq Khan, on whom we have seen a renewal of disgraceful attacks.
More stop and search will be imposed. This is despite the fact that Theresa May as Home Secretary called for a comprehensive review after a quarter of a million illegal stop and searches were carried out in 2013. Properly focused and intelligence-led stop and search does have a role to play in tackling crime. But the Home Office’s own research shows mass stop and search is ineffective and alienates those we need to win over. The progressive Mayor of New York Bill de Blasio has recently ended what they call “stop and frisk”, with some US conservatives accepting he was right to do so.
The government has fallen into the familiar trap: complacency and inertia, followed by the “something must be done” line when crisis hits.
Now, something that works must be done.
There are numerous causes o f knife and gun crime, as shown by the la test attacks. Our response must address multiple sides equally, and it must be evidence-based. Scotland has had notable success in reducing knife crime by treating it as a public health issue. According to The Guardian’s Beyond the blade reporting, none of the 35 stabbing-related deaths of young people in 2017 happened in Scotland. This follows Glasgow’s long-unwanted reputation as the “murder capital” of Europe.
Our response must address multiple sides equally, and it must be evidence-based.
Since 2005, specially trained police officers from the Violence Redu ction Unithave been working with ex-offenders and community leaders. Hardened criminals were initially brought to criminal courts. But they were also given help with literacy and numeracy skills, job training, and some were relocated.
The decline in gang-related violence led to a more widespread decline. A virtuous circle was established. Not all problems have been solved, and results have taken years to achieve. Much more needs to be done, especially when it comes to tackling domestic violence. But it has worked. The Glasgow experience itself learned from initiatives in Boston in the 1990s.
This government exhibits an extraordinary gap between its own estimation of its abilities and its performance. But it should not be so arrogant as to refuse to learn from the success of others. Tackling deadly crime is too important.

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