Earlier this week, the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd announced a new Serious Violence Strategy and Offensive Weapons Bill, both designed to tackle violence and knife crime in communities. We have seen a shocking number of young people lose their lives lately from stabbings and it’s something the Government, the police, local authorities and the whole of society needs to tackle.
Whilst it is important that we have robust legislation to allow people involved in the possession and use of weapons to be appropriately prosecuted and punished, this is only a small part of the overall picture. Knife crime is a complex issue and will not be solved by playing a political blame game. It is an issue for which there is no simple explanation and no simple solution but one which we have to get to grips with as a society.
Much of the media discussion has focussed on whether to re-introduce stop and search powers. Contrary to much of what has been reported, the right to stop and search has never ceased and whilst this power was undoubtedly misused in the past, we should not let this deter the police from being able to use the power today. Whilst police policy has been revised on this issue, it is vital that people know the power still exists, as its deterrent effect should not be underestimated.
The number of prison sentences for possessing a knife has increased in recent years but, whilst tough sentences can be a deterrent, they will not solve the problem on its own.
It is essential that young people most at risk of becoming part of a gang are offered the support and intervention they need. Many knife attacks are carried out as a consequence of gang or drug activities and so interrupting gang networks is an important part of the overall tackling of this problem and needs a multi-agency approach.
In addition to this, Central Government must make sure our police forces have the authority and autonomy to make decisions that are right for the communities they serve. I do not believe it is for Whitehall to dictate the way in which individual forces should respond to this problem but instead provide them with the tools they need to respond appropriately.
Knife crime will not be solved by simply throwing the blame on the Government or the Mayor of London or the police but rather by taking a collaborative approach.