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‘Striking distrust of police’ among young people must be tackled, says council report into knife violence

Camden Council announced £500,000 funding to act on findings of "youth safety taskforce"

20 September, 2018 — By William McLennan

Five young men from Camden have been fatally stabbed in the past 12 months

AN investigation into the rise in knife violence on the streets of Camden has found a “striking” distrust of police among young people.

The “youth safetytask force”, which was set up at the end of 2017 shortly after a Mohammed Aadam Mohammed was fatally stabbed in Mornington Crescent, said that “efforts must be made to improve relations”.

It adds that that “parents in some communities are reluctant to ask for help from local services due to fear of social services ‘stepping in’ and being stigmatised as a bad parent”.

The findings of the year-long investigation were revealed tonight (Thursday) alongside an announcement that Camden Council would be investing £500,000 over two years to help deliver the recommendations.

It supports a “whole Camden approach”, with lessons highlighted for the council, police, schools and other services.

Since the taskforce was launched, a further four young men from Camden aged 20 or under have been stabbed to death.

The report said: “Most young people who spoke to the taskforce directly said they feel less safe in Camden than they did a year ago.”

Three of victims in the past 12 months were Somali men and the report states: “The Somali community in particular has felt the devastating impact of this increase in youth violence.”

Three members of the same family have been stabbed to death in Camden

Mr Mohammed’s brother Sadiq was killed alongside Abdikarim Hassan on February 20 in a night of shocking violence that saw three separate knife attacks across the borough.

Among the report’s other findings are:

  • A lack of support for 18-25 year olds at risk of violence or being involved in gang
  • A need for more youth services, particularly targeted at the “transition” age of 10-14
  • A need for greater understanding that the drugs trade involves vulnerable children who are being exploited by adult criminals
  • More focus on targeting those ‘at the top’ of the drugs trade
  • A need for more support for children who have been excluded from school, or may be at risk of exclusion

Researchers conducted focus groups, online survey and interviews with experts in the police, health services and charities.

The report said: “The taskforce was struck by the level of distrust that exists between some local communities and the police. Many young people have a negative view of the police and under-reporting of youth violence incidents is something which makes the effort to keep young people safe more difficult.

“Stop and search practice was highlighted to the taskforce as being particularly controversial for young people, with young black men feeling they are disproportionately and unfairly targeted.”

Elsewhere, the report said: “During focus groups, it was made clear to the taskforce that many young people in the borough distrust the police. This is especially, though not exclusively, the case among those from BME communities”.

“The taskforce also learnt that some parents, particularly mothers in Somali communities, do not seek support from public services due to mistrust.” 

It said some parents were “reluctant to ask for help from local services due to fear of social services ‘stepping in’ and being stigmatised as a bad parent.”

It added: “This reported distrust is detrimental to efforts to tackle youth violence and efforts must be made to improve relations.”

Holborn and St Pancras MP Keir Starmer, who co-chaired the taskforce, said: “This report draws together the findings and recommendations of the Taskforce. Accepting a whole Camden community approach is vital and we must all play our part.

“We now need to build on the Taskforce’s work. This is an issue which affects us all and by working together we look forward to building a better future for our young people.”

Co-chair Cllr Abdul Hai said: “I am pleased to be able to allocate council funding to help action some of these recommendations and am sure everyone will continue to work together as we look to reduce youth violence and exploitation in Camden.”

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