FIVE people have been killed in six days as one of the bloodiest years for knife crime spirals even further out of control.
There were more than 40,000 offences recorded in the year to March alone.
Here, a youth leader who has worked on the front line of gang culture for more than 15 years tells SHARON HENDRY how the killings can be stopped.
THERE is a bloody battle on the streets — but the cavalry is not coming for the black youths at war.
What’s certain is that the voices of those in charge are falling on deaf ears. New Home Secretary Sajid Javid is a man of colour who grew up on the wrong side of Bristol.
But his life experiences are not translating into sensible responses. This week he said police will get enhanced stop and search powers.
He wants his officers to be more confident to flex these muscles, which he says are vital in the fight against knife crime. Vital for winning votes.
In the trenches we know that unless stop and search is intelligence-led, it doesn’t work. When the police do find knives is when they sweep parks and council estates.
Meanwhile, millions of hours of manpower are wasted when officers could be doing actual policing.
Stop and search is like a blind man searching for a black cat in a dark room.
I am in favour of robust policing but let’s police. I have never had an officer in my youth organisation offering to build a relationship.
We have children who want to join the police but officers wouldn’t know because they don’t listen to them.
Children want good police because they like to feel safe — sadly too many join gangs to achieve that.
Meanwhile, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said this week: “To really make significant progress can take up to ten years.”
He doesn’t have a clue. It doesn’t take ten years to meet and understand these kids.
People speak for these children in Parliament and the media but they are not informed by them.
What it says to the kids is: “In ten years you will be someone else’s problem. You’ll be dead before change comes.”
But the problem is NOW and the blood loss is getting more serious by the day.
Most of the children I work with are impacted by trauma.
If I tell my kids “little Johnny” was stabbed, nobody will even pause from eating their McDonald’s.
Many live in bleak areas and have to leave their homes in defence mode. This often means having a weapon and an attitude of aggression.
There are solutions. It must be about leadership. The Government needs to give us a GANG TSAR, fast, who can lead us back to sanity.
We need ROBUST POLICING for the four per cent of gang members at the top of the drugs food chain.
The rest are kids who need ROBUST ‘PARENTING’.
When families break down, community leaders like myself and Colin James, at charity Gangs Unite, fill this role and we are grossly over-stretched and under resourced.
We need proper FINANCIAL SUPPORT to bring children away from harm. We also need to look at WIDER QUESTIONS such as how the economy can work for everyone, even the less able when it comes to exams.
Communities need to REACH OUT to their children and model what it means to be a decent human being.
There are a million potential mentors in staff rooms but they are all unsupported and underfunded.
Budgets for after-school clubs have gone.
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For £100 a year I can help, advise and mentor a child involved in gang culture.
Politicians are doing little. So later this month I am taking the conversation to the communities myself. The doors will be open to everyone from gang members to senior politicians.
If they care enough to come, they won’t be bashed because we need to help them to understand our world.
These children are our responsibility — but are we ready to take them on? I hope so, because they are waiting.
- To find out about Ray’s work at his charity Eastside Young Leaders Academy and to donate, visit eyla.org.uk. For information on boarding school scholarships for disadvantaged children, visit royalspringboard.org.uk
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