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Webinar: Combatting Knife Crime: Making Communities Safer & Working in Partnership to Tackle Serious Youth Violence

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Knife crime is at its highest recorded level in the past 10 years, with 46,000 offences involving a knife or sharp instrument in England and Wales in the year ending March 2020. During the COVID-19 lockdown period, police have recorded rises in knife crime and youth violence throughout many parts of the UK. Of further concern is that in 2020, the number of ‘children in need’ assessments that identified gangs as a factor increased by 34%.

In an effort to combat this sharp rise in knife crime, on 4 February 2021, the government published a total police funding settlement of up to £15.8 billion in 2021/22, an increase of up to £636 million compared to 2020/21. The government have also introduced the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill in March this year, seeking to increase minimum sentencing for certain offences, introduce provisions for the management of offenders, including new targeted stop and search powers for the police targeting knife crime offenders. In particular, Serious Violence Reduction Orders (SVROs) aim to implement the government’s manifesto commitment to target known knife carriers, making it easier for officers to stop and search those previously convicted of a knife crime. This seeks to help the police target those most at risk of being drawn into serious violence, deter offenders from carrying weapons, and “set them on a more positive path” (Home Office, 2021).

While there has been growing cross-party consensus supporting early intervention projects and treating knife crime as a public health problem, the British Youth Council have criticised the government’s recent effort to combat knife crime as a “punitive approach”. The decision to address knife crime primarily with hard powers has also led Kevin Blowe of the Network for Police Monitoring (Netpol) to argue that the proposals risk “creating a class of people who are treated as ‘permanent criminals’ – or who are regularly misidentified as such”. Critics of the the Bill suggest that tackling knife crime from a public health or social problem has been replaced by a tougher criminal stance.

Furthermore, campaign groups such as Liberty Human Rights have highlighted concerns that communities of colour are already searched at significantly higher rates, with black people 8.9 times more likely to be subject to a stop and search than their white peers. The Home Office itself has conceded that a disproportionate number of black males will be impacted by SVROs, however little effort has been made to remedy this, with the Home Secretary stating that “the government’s number one job is to keep our people safe”. Criticism of this approach is supported by the British Youth Council, who have urged a roll back of stop and search powers “until the disproportionate targeting of black males has been addressed”. Campaigners argue that long-term studies, including one of Metropolitan Police data, show that stop and search has only a marginal impact on crime reduction.

Bernado’s have also raised concerns for the ‘hidden’ children of the pandemic who may be more vulnerable to exploitation. They have called for the Bill to be amended to introduce a statutory definition of ‘criminal exploitation’ to help identify victims and make sure they are supported appropriately.

In reflection of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill and increase in funding programmes to tackle knife-crime, this symposium offers an insightful opportunity for practitioners across the police service, education, health and third sector to examine the Government’s latest strategies to tackle serious youth crime, share best practice and consider the next steps in confronting knife crime, to reduce the level of violence on our streets. Delegates will also explore how to implement a coordinated early intervention approach to identify those most vulnerable; divert young people away from crime and build more positive futures.

Program

  • Assess the impact of Covid-19 on the spread of knife crime and the increasing number of vulnerable young people being exploited as a result
  • Consider how to better identify and support children and young people at risk of committing a knife-related crime
  • Discuss alternative ways to make communities safer, such as that from a public health perspective, or more innovative early intervention solutions
  • Examine concerns with the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, and whether it will succeed in its aim of tackling knife crime
  • Consider the impact that an increase in police stop and search powers will have on relationships between the public and police
  • Discuss whether the government’s strategy addresses the root causes of knife crime and develop an understanding of what a long-term strategy may look like
  • Explore collaborative opportunities and discuss better preventative measures

To register for the briefing, please click here.

 


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