My latest guest column for Bedford Independent focuses on the correlation between cuts to police and public services and the rise in violent crime.
This month, the Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, made another speech about rising violent crime among young people.
In what some interpreted as a leadership bid, Javid said, had he not had the good influence of his parents and teachers he could have had a life of crime himself and worried about his teenage children out on the streets.
“If I don’t feel safe or don’t think the streets are safe enough for my own children,” he said, “then something has gone terribly wrong”.
Something has gone terribly wrong. The country has seen a massive increase in youth knife crime. In Bedfordshire, knife crime has gone up 86% since 2014 and we have one of the worst knife crime rates outside of London.
In the last month alone, we have seen the trials of two horrific murders in Bedford. Five men were jailed for a total of 102 years for the death of Przemyslaw Golimowski.
And a 20-year-old and three 15-year olds, who filmed their brutal attack of 16- year old Cemeren Yilmaz, were found guilty of murder – a case of children killing children in gang related violence.
Until the Conservative Government acknowledge that cuts to police and other public services correlates to the rise in violent crime, they are not going to tackle the problem.
The Government have offered a one-off fund, but this is a ‘drop in the ocean’ compared to what is needed.
10 years of austerity has hit our nation hard and the damage of such social violence cannot be underestimated.
As well as giving the police the funding they need to do their jobs effectively we have to start taking a public health approach to youth violent crime and find out why kids are joining gangs, carrying knives and hurting each other.
There are plenty of teachers, youth workers, scholars and parents who know what needs to be done but the Government won’t listen.
A damning report by the United Nations poverty envoy in November found that the UK government has inflicted “great misery” on its people with “punitive, mean-spirited, and often callous” austerity policies driven by a political desire to undertake social re-engineering rather than economic necessity.”
Labour have called for more police officers and a real, concentrated effort to tackle the root causes of knife crime.
This involves supporting vulnerable young people who are at risk of falling into crime and developing comprehensive prevention and support strategies.
These changes would tackle not only knife crime, but other related crimes too.
Mr Javid talks of his escape from a possible world of crime, but his Government are reducing opportunities and life chances for young people.
There were 4.1 million children living in poverty in the UK in 2016-17. Is it that surprising that children are being seduced into a world of crime when their families can’t even feed them?
A much larger, co-ordinated effort is needed to prevent violent crimes and give our young people the chances that they deserve. The current approach has failed and is costing lives.”