Harriet Harman

Member of Parliament for Camberwell and Peckham. Mother of the House of Commons.

Urgent Action Needed to Combat Rise in Knife Crime

Tragically at the moment too often teenage boys and young men in their 20s are being killed by knives.  In just the last 12 months in my constituency of Camberwell and Peckham 2 young men have been fatally stabbed - Ernest Kalawa aged only 24, a young man born and brought up in the community in Peckham who attended a local school and has left behind a devastated younger brother, two younger sisters and parents. And teenager Abdirahman Mohamed aged just 17 at the time of his tragic murder, a young boy from Camberwell whose family are utterly distraught.

This is a problem which is getting worse. Last year there was a 24% rise in knife across London but the increase is even worse in locally in Southwark where knife offences rose by almost 50% in the last year.  

Many complex issues lie behind this rise in knife crime but what is of undeniable importance is the role of the police in prevention and in assuring that when such a crime is committed the perpetrators do not get away with it but face justice.  

So it is particularly worrying that against a background of persistent and distressing knife crime that the work of the police is being cut back.

Police numbers are vital to community policing. Police who walk the streets get to know families and communities. Yet the numbers of police on the beat are being cut back – there are 24% less police officers and community support officers in Southwark than there were in 2010. On top of that the accessibility of the police to the public is under threat as front desks at police stations are facing closure across London and the understanding and leading role of a borough commander on behalf of the local community is being weakened – cutbacks mean Southwark may no longer have our own police commander but will share one with Lambeth.  

This is not what local people want. The working relationship that’s built up between Southwark Police and their team with communities in Southwark is of huge importance and needs yet further work, not diluting across boroughs. While coordination between boroughs on issues like knife crime is important, these measures are driven not by the needs of people living in Southwark, or the police, but by cuts.

This is a worry for many MPs across London, particularly in south London and that’s why it’s so important that Sarah Jones, the new MP for Croydon, has set up a new all-party parliamentary group on knife crime, which I have joined. We will be working together to back the action of police, schools, parents and youth services to try to tackle this growing problem and end the tragedy of these young deaths.

It is so distressing that more families are having to suffer the loss of a son, brother or partner. More needs to be done to protect our young people and keep them safe. I will continue to work with local councillors, the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and my Labour colleagues in Parliament to oppose these Tory cuts to police, the cuts to education budgets which mean schools are no longer able to afford after-school clubs and pastoral support and the cuts to local councils which mean youth services are being cut back.   

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