We’re coming to the end of a closely fought general election campaign. General elections are a time when politicians campaign on issues that they think really matter to people. One surprise of this election is that crime, especially crime affecting young people, has largely dropped off the agenda. Politicians, at least nationally, do not seem to think that crime is an issue worthy of campaigning on.
I beg to differ.
In London knife crime came to a critical peak in 2008 when 21 young people were killed within the year and within one 24-hour hour period four people were stabbed to death. Knife crime was a critical issue during that year’s Mayor and London Assembly elections.
We are not back to the rates of that tragic epidemic – at least not at the moment. Nevertheless, knife crime is rising across the capital, yet the issue is gaining very little attention. Indeed, has any major broadcaster quizzed Boris Johnson on this issue during the General Election campaign?
Considering how he was first elected and that he’s not only the Mayor of London but also Police and Crime Commissioner for London, I find this both surprising and alarming.
Sheridan Mangal, the chairman of A Better Way Partnership, an organisation which works closely with police and other organisations to tackle gang violence in Waltham Forest has publicly said that there has been an escalation of knife crime in recent months in his part of London.
He believes the Met’s and the Mayor’s claims that knife crime is falling has no bearing on reality.
It’s certainly hard to argue with him.
In the last four years there were 46,461 knife crime offences across London. That’s the same as 32 attacks a day, the equivalent of one attack a day per borough every day for the last four years. With 1,000 people a month being victims of knife crime in London, 400 of these people are injured in these attacks.
Last year in London knife crime offences increased by 51% over a six month period, yet the percentage of knife crimes getting solved in London is at its lowest rate in four years. Over the last year alone, fourteen teenagers have been stabbed to death on our streets.
In the last few weeks alone, during this General Election campaign, horrific acts of violence have been occurring. On the 21st April Ola Raji, who was 20 years old, was shot in the chest and stabbed in East Surrey Grove in Peckham.
Another man, yet to be named by police, was stabbed to death in Leyton on April 25th. And just at the weekend there were two stabbings within a 24 hour period in the borough of Lewisham. One of these stabbings has left a 16-year old boy fighting for his life.
Margaret Mizen, whose son Jimmy was killed the day after his sixteenth birthday a few years ago in a high street in Lewisham, has commented on the recent spate of youth violence saying: “We don’t hear politicians talking about young people and violence enough”.
How right she is.
I hope over the coming months, as London becomes the focus for many politicians, that we start to see this important issue at the forefront of the political agenda.
Caroline Pidgeon is leader of the Liberal Democrat London Assembly Group. Follow her work at glalibdems.org.uk