The horrors of knife crime continue not weekly but daily on our streets. ‘I can’t bear to look at myself in the mirror, I can’t do it. I can’t stand what I see. He was my only son, my only child and now he’s gone. I sleep on his grave every night.’ These were the heartbreaking words of a mother who lost her 19 year old son to knife crime and no, he was not in a gang he was just a teenager going to buy milk who never returned.
The London news section of the Havering Daily today looks at knife crime, talking to bereaved parents, high ranking police officers and anti knife crime campaigners about this epidemic on our streets.
The most important thing to mention at the very start of this article is that the majority of the youngsters killed on our streets to knife crime are not in gangs. The general assumption is that these youngsters murdered daily are all gang members, but they are not. They are actually innocent teenagers who were not involved in any form of criminality and instead had their lives horrifically taken away from them.
Their deaths signify the end of that family. A family that never recovers from that heartbreak, a family that then falls to pieces and turns to society to find the answers and that society is failing them. Those that should be addressing this nightmare choose to repeatedly look away and leave the answers to our police officers who tackle this daily and anti knife crime campaigners who dedicate their life in trying to stop our youth from carrying knives.
Every day a child is stabbed on our street, every day a police officer and other emergency service workers try their best to save that life and when they don’t, the trauma that is left behind means shattered families and police officers permanently scarred.
This year has already seen record breaking knife crime fatalities in the capital.
Anti knife crime campaigner Courtney Barrett explains: “After so many fatalities this year already knife crime is worse than it’s ever been.
“Most of this year has seen us locked down, so it is extremely worrying that we have so many incidents and such a high death rate.
“I believe this is down to the government’s complete ignorance and failure to deal with knife crime, that we shall see an even bigger explosion of knife crime incidents over the next few months.”
Frightening, but sadly true words as the number of fatalities rise.
Poet and anti knife crime advocate Quinton Milise shares:
“As we have heard so many times before. There Is no one size fits all solution to this complex issue. Nobody has all the answers, although the answer lies with everybody. Serious Youth Violence has always been a problem in our towns and cities but sadly we are seeing a steep rise in knife related incidents in recent years.
“What can be done to begin to make a change? First and foremost we need to invite young people to be a part of that change. So many online events, marches and even initiatives do not involve the voice of Young People. There are too many adults talking about them, not with them. Early Intervention is key. It’s important that we encourage preventative work rather than enforcement, when it is too late. Socio-Economic circumstances have always been a factor, but we are seeing young people from all backgrounds exposed to trauma, at home and on social media (I stumbled upon a Rapper being shot dead on instagram live at the time of writing this. How?). The normalisation of violence further exacerbates the issue. Children are increasingly desensitised and see or hear violence on a daily basis in one format or another.”
We all agree that this is a wide and complex issue that has to be addressed by the community on a whole and not just front line police officers. Chief Superintendent Roy Smith, a high ranking police officer based at New Scotland Yard explains:
“Stop and search is just one tool and does not replace the need for a system wide approach including a need for better health, education and socio economic opportunities. But sadly right here and now it is needed as police officers are out daily facing these dangers on our behalf doing their best to save lives.
“I am an advocate of a system wide approach, a system that includes better social opportunities to reduce knife crime on a whole.”
Views that I’m sure all of our communities would agree with. We cannot as has been said repeatedly, police our way out of this, it does as Chief Superintendent Smith says, need a system wide approach to deal with this.
Sue Hedges who lost her son Ricky Hayden to knife crime in 2016, also believes in a community wide approach.
“More prevention is needed, more work in schools showing our youth the reasons why they should not carry knives. Make it hard hitting with pictures and as realistic as possible to show them.
“The government really don’t care. They are worried about less important issues and leave knife crime out, unless they stood in my shoes they would not understand the pain we go through everyday.
“The justice system is not working. Offenders are not being given the sentences they should and are literally getting away with murder. The police work hard to catch them but then we are all let down but the courts.”
Poet Quinton continued:
“In my Poem Knife Sentence I wrote “I wonder if, as a teenager, he’s watching how the olders carry themselves and it’s learned behaviour”. Children learn by mimicking negative behaviours that can manifest as an adult. If we want to see change in them, we need to see culpability and responsibility from within the community too. Parents, caregivers, relations, schools.Let’s all play our part in contributing towards a better future. We are seeing too many families losing loved ones. My heart goes out to them.”
Julie Taylor lost her 19 year old grandson Liam to knife crime last year. Her family is now broken and like all the other bereaved families will mourn the death of their loved one every single day. One act that took seconds, condemns a family to a lifetime of misery. She says:
“I feel there is so much knife crime for so many reasons, it’s a status in gangs with the points system. This generation think they need to carry to be someone or for protection, so many excuses all the time, no one needs to carry a knife or any weapon.
“There is not enough police about to help deter the problem, friends, family and neighbours don’t want to be classed as grasses or get involved. Sentences are no where near what they should be.
“We should have much longer sentences for taking a life and using a knife even carrying a knife should be a prison sentence.
“Gangs, drugs, unemployment, no education in knife crime certainly seem to be major factors contributing to the disease that is taking over the country if its not stamped on hard and fast now, it will be the norm to carry, stab and kill our loved ones. So much needs to be done to raise more awareness now before every family loses a loved one and believe me that is something you never get over and never want in your family.”
This problem is vast and needs to be addressed by all the community and recognised for the horror that it is. Speak to our youth and ask them why they feel the need to be carrying a knife when they go out. Communication is vital.
Vicki Fuller lost her son Ricardo to knife crime last year, like all the other families her and her children will never recover from Ricardo’s death.
“He was the glue in our family and for his friends. He kept everyone together and now he’s gone. We need more job prospects for our youth, we need better education. We shouldn’t be excluding them but listening to them and why they are behaving that way.
“We need parents and neighbours patrolling our streets and talking to our youth. We also need higher sentencing for those who have taken a life with a knife. My family is still in turmoil a year after Ricardo’s death. My younger son has still not grieved. Ricardo’s death took less that a minute but has condemned us to a lifetime of misery.
“There are solutions to this nightmare that can be addressed straight away by our society. Our education system needs to stop excluding children but focusing on why their behaviour is like that. Work with them and not against them. Listen to what they are telling you. “
This is clearly a problem for all of our society and it is only by combining forces that we can start to find answers.
A huge anti knife crime demonstration was held outside of City Hall two weeks ago led by anti knife crime campaigner Courtney Barrett. This saw many bereaved parents come together to share their grief and unite in solidarity against this nightmare.
Anti knife crime campaigners from across the country all attended alongside Chief Superintendent Roy Smith who came to show his support to bereaved families and their plight to stop knife crime. They all shared in the one common cause, the stopping of knife crime.
Clearly there is a solution to this nightmare and that is uniting forces and tackling this problem on every level in our community, alongside increasing sentences for those who take a life with a knife.