CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

‘Get realistic!’ Sadiq Khan told his new knife crime unit needs more funding

Mayor of London criticised for not visiting community after Camden stabbings

27 September, 2018 — By William McLennan

Sadiq Khan came to West Hampstead on the eve of the local elections

THE Mayor of London has been told to “be realistic” after backing up a new city-wide approach to knife crime with an initial spend of only £500,000.

Sadiq Khan made the pledge to set up a new Violence Reduction Unit just a day after the Town Hall said it would be spending the same amount of ­money on Camden alone. The council agreed to using the money on a “public health approach” after spending 12 months investigating the causes of knife crime, which has claimed the lives of two young men on the same night earlier this year and seen scores wounded in stabbings.

Mr Khan now faces pressure to show the same commitment, financially, as Camden, which commissioned a youth safety taskforce after the violence earlier this year.

Renee Horsford, who was one of a group of mothers to set up Camden Against Violence in the aftermath of the February 20 killings, said she was “really proud of Camden’s approach when you compare it against other boroughs”. She added that the Mayor needed to consider greater investment, adding: “I think he needs to be realistic about his figures.”

Comparisons have been drawn with US cities that have been treating violent crime like a viral epidemic for more than a decade, successfully driving down the murder rate. In Chicago the scheme, known as Cure Violence, received £4.1m this year, while New York City, which has a similar population to London, received £13m.

Steve O’Connell, the London Assembly Conservative’s policing and crime spokesman, said Mr Khan’s plan was “too little, too late,” adding that the “undetailed plans are wholly inadequate”. “The Mayor is only prepared to commit a paltry £500,000 to a Violence Reduction Unit which he admits is still in the planning phase,” he said.

Green Party co-leader Sian Berry, who chairs the London Assembly’s policing and crime committee, said the Mayor had made “really good progress” since she first raised the issue in 2017, but added: “We’ve got a long way to go. “[£500,000 is] enough for a central team to liaise and co-ordinate resources that already exist and start to get people pulling in the same direction. But when they get to seriously look at what is needed to do a public health approach properly long term they will uncover many new needs for resources.”

The London unit takes its inspiration from a scheme in Glasgow of the same name that halved the city’s murder rate. It received £7.6m from the Scottish government between 2008 and 2016. The Mayor’s office said the £500,000 was an initial investment that would be spent establishing the unit “through staffing and also commissioning programmes of work”.

It said that it is backed by a £140m spend topping up the Met’s dwindling budget and a £45m investment in community youth projects, through the Young Londoners Fund.

Mr Khan was criticised for not visiting Camden or meeting with the victims’ families in the wake of the killings, which became symbolic of the spiralling knife crime problem.  When questioned by the New Journal in May, as he made a eve-of-election visit to drum up support for Labour, he accused this newspaper of inappropriately “trying to make political capital out of a family grieving”.

Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn and Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott toured the Peckwater Estate, before meeting members of the community, including relatives of the deceased, at St Luke’s Church in April. They addressed a huddle of national TV broadcasters in an organised press conference during their trip.

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