Spent Friday afternoon with Blunt 2 Taskforce – the key policing taskforce set up after the 24th knife murder in London. Well impressed with the Met’s concentrated focus and gold service in terms of trying to tackle what everyone is screaming at them to tackle – stopping our youngsters killing each other.
The idea is to stop trouble before it escalates into violence – so from a control centre in Central London key hotspots are watched and every bit of intelligence that comes in is monitored. If it looks like problems are brewing – then teams are sent in to diffuse anything that might kick off, as well as act as a deterrent. When police vans arrive in an area – word gets round pretty quickly to stay in and leave weapons at home if going out.
So – the Met has responded to our angst in London about the number of young people dying and injured on our mean streets. Those I met were dedicated, committed and determined. They were very aware that the increase in Stop and Search had to be not just about the action – but include engagement with young people if it is not to cause alienation. (Very important as ease to see how handled badly some of these tactics could go very wrong.)
They know that they need to take these actions with respect – but equally it was clear that they felt that the stop and search powers which have come under such scrutiny and criticism in recent years have a key role in tackling knife crime.
They’ve taken around 2,500 knives off the streets – with no complaints. On the whole, the police work with communities these days and – according to them – find the communities grateful for the protection that they bring in areas where kids are afraid to go out. No doubt I will at some point have this confirmed as the statistics filter through (albeit statistics got a bit of a bashing this week).
Since July 14th and the setting up of the task force there have been a further three murders. That is dreadful – but it is a slowing of the rate we saw for the first seven months of the year. Blunt bluntly admit they cannot exactly claim specific credit – but that is I guess because it is impossible to measure things that don’t take place. So if incidents are disrupted and don’t happen – they are not counted. Tricky.
Anyway – the point is I thought the project, the team, the resource committed to it and the effort are all very impressive. But – as the police were only too aware – it isn’t a matter of simply the policing and judicial side – it is about young people’s lives, diversions, aspirations, families and all of that wherein lies the long term solutions.
Catching those who do carry is obviously hugely important – but it’s also about what happens to that young person thereafter to make him or her change their behaviour. And as I said after my visit to Haringey Youth Offending Service last week – the resource going into preventative work, restorative justice, reparation and rehabilitation just doesn’t come near the level of resource on the judicial and policing side.
But if we do not do anything to change behaviour – then the police will be catching the same people over and over again!