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What it takes to spark action on knife crime

Expert: People take notice when victim is middle-class

21 June, 2019 — By Calum Fraser

James Alex­ander: ‘Less pressure when victim is not from suburbs’

IT takes the stabbing of someone other than the “usual suspect of a young black man” for action to be taken over knife crime, an expert has said.

James Alexander, senior lecturer in criminology at London Metropolitan University, said that less pressure is put on authorities when the victims of knife crime are not from “middle-class suburbs”.

His comments come after the case of Christel Stainfield-Bruce was pick­ed up by all major news outlets and Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn held emergency meetings with the borough commander.

The nursery teacher was stabbed in the leg last week in Holloway while her baby boy was sleeping nearby. She later said that she felt sorry for her attacker, adding: “What kind of world are they growing up in? Why would this be a good choice? We are all a product of our society. I don’t feel like anybody is born bad.”

The incident sparked a new debate on how knife crime is being tackled in Islington and beyond.

Mr Alexander said: “I started getting involved in looking at knife crime in 2006. It is really unfortunate that it has taken more than the usual suspect of a young black man to be stabbed for people to take notice, for them to want to do something about it.”

Supt David Moorhead: ‘An ordinary member of the public was stabbed’

He added: “One person I spoke to likened it to the heroin epidemic in the 1980s. When it was just poor working-class people getting addicted then there was not the same level of scrutiny. Then when middle-class suburbs are affected it gets wider attention. You can see parallels. This is taking nothing away from the severity of this woman’s experience. It is horrible, absolutely horrible.”

In the past seven weeks, six young men in their teens or 20s have been found stabbed in the borough. No one has yet been charged for any of the attacks.

In the 12 months up to April this year, almost 85 per cent of the 2,720 violent attacks in Islington that resulted in an injury did not lead to a conviction.

Ismail Musa, 26, of Tollington Road, was charged on Friday with causing grievous bodily harm with intent in connection with the stabbing of Ms Stainfield-Bruce.

Asked about the difference between Ms Stainfield-Bruce’s case and other stabbings in Islington, Superintendent David Moorhead said: “It wasn’t a gang member or someone who is affiliated to a gang. It was an ordinary member of the public who was stabbed, someone who was just going about their business.”

He added: “Police need to reassure the wider community and the reason it is being escalated is to show, actually, police are actively doing something about this issue, really proactively.

“But it’s not that we’re not doing anything about the other stabbings.”

Supt Moorhead, who is in charge of community policing in Camden and Islington, added: “The wider issue is young people and gang links. We have to stop them being drawn to joining gangs early on, through community contacts and working with families. That is what community policing is all about.”

As reported last week in the Tribune, police said that they have more chance of catching suspects in cases like Ms Stainfield-Bruce’s when the victim gives a statement.


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