More than 50 people have been murdered on the streets of London this year. The escalating violence has seen the city overtake New York in terms of murder rate; a comparison shocking to many considering our view on the dangers of gun crime in the United States and the UK’s strict firearm laws.
So now comes the finger pointing. The search for reasons behind the crisis has seen the blame laid on a lack of role models and a lack of police on the streets, with 20,000 less officers on the beat following cuts, among others.
But rather than a blame game, April’s bloodshed should be time to look elsewhere for pointers on how to prevent further tragedy.
Tottenham MP David Lammy, whose constituency has borne the brunt of the crimes this month, has looked to Glasgow – the former owner of the unenviable title “murder capital of Britain” that London has inherited – as a blueprint to follow to regain control of the streets.
The Labour MP suggested that the Scottish city had a violence problem a decade ago – but has since got it under control by ensuring that people and agencies are on the same page.
My constituents are scared, they are frightened and they are angry. I will continue to stand up for them and I feel their pain. I am sick of young peoples’ lives being used as a political football. We need political leadership and we need a political consensus to deal with this. pic.twitter.com/A0FMim72HP
— David Lammy (@DavidLammy) April 5, 2018
Lammy told the BBC Today programme last week that he’s “sick of political football”, adding “what I want is a political consensus” in order to find a lasting solution. “In the Scotland example they have a public health strategy, all agencies coming together, all resources and the community itself was sick of it, so people, are stepping up, so it can be done,” he said.
Glasgow’s Violence Reduction Unit, set up in 2005 by Karyn McCluskey and John Carnochan and extended nationwide a year later, has had a profound effect on murder rates, sending them tumbling by almost half to a 40-year low point.
There are currently around 2,000 Big Issue sellers working hard on the streets each week.
The unit uses a range of projects, including placing staff in emergency departments to speak to patients in a bid to help them break free of the cycle of violence or even a street food van that employs offenders to get them back on the straight and narrow.
Lammy’s suggestions have not fallen on deaf ears – London mayor Sadiq Khan and Metropolitan police commissioner Cressida Dick have already cast their eyes north of the border.
"The increase in violent crime has been happening since 2014 across the country" says @SadiqKhan. Sky News questions the London Mayor about what he's been doing about it in the capital pic.twitter.com/JQaVhYdVH6
— Sky News (@SkyNews) April 5, 2018
Meanwhile, knife crime campaigner Yvonne Lawson, whose son Godwin Lawson was tragically stabbed to death in 2010, aged just 17, is aiming to provide support and early intervention to families in London to prevent the problem.
“The last few days have been horrifying as a parent. It has been eight years since I lost Godwin and it’s a shame that things are escalating again,” said Yvonne, who started the Godwin Lawson Foundation in her son’s memory.
“We are doing research for Haringey Council on knife crime and some of the issues we have found out come down to kids fearing for their personal safety – they are quite scared. The other issue is social media, which is a huge factor that can escalate the situation and be hard to control.
Yvonne said in the short term, the foundation offers support to families so she goes to see parents to offer first-hand support to help them recover with that immediate support.
“Long-term, our early intervention programmes in schools allows schools to identify kids who are at risk of going down the route of joining gangs. We work very closely with schools and they also have a role to help stop kids from going down the wrong path.”
Update: This article has been amended to remove a quote from David Lammy that claimed there were no deaths related to stabbings in Glasgow in 2017.