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13 November 2014
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Knives c/o PA Images and Lewis Whyld

Knife crime - growing worries in London.

Knife crime

Linda Robson asks what can be done to stop the increase in knife crime in London. She looks at some innovative projects, meets the police and youngsters to discuss the issue.

This year 25 teenagers have been murdered on London's streets in a spate of unprecedented youth-on-youth violence.

With each death politicians and the police have vowed to stop the stabbings and get tough on gun crime.

But can they make a difference? What has really been done to stop our kids from killing each other?

Actress Linda Robson, whose son was a close friend of recent knife victim Ben Kinsella, has spent the last few weeks trying to find answers.

Linda Robson investigates...

As I have said in the past, I am a mum, not a politician, but I am scared for my kids on the streets and I am scared for everyone's kids.

That is why I agreed to work with Inside Out on this film.

Linda Robson

Knife carrying - Linda Robson investigates

However, I never anticipated the effect it would have on me and my views about teenagers carrying knives.

My research began when I met Maera Yiannakou. A mother of two, she confessed to me that her son was a knife carrier.

"My son will carry a knife until the day he dies," said Maere.

"I hate it. But what can I do? I could ground him but he will not do what I tell him."

Maera is not a bad mother by any standard. But like many parents, she struggles to control her children.

I have always felt strongly that children who walk the streets with weapons have not been bought up properly but Maera's situation made me question that.

As did Kai, her son.

Shaquille Maitland Smith c/o Metropolitan Police and PA Wire

Shaquille Maitland Smith - died of knife wounds.

Kai was carrying a knife out of fear. At an earlier age he had been knifed in the face by another boy.

Now he did not feel safe unless he had a knife when he was out and about to defend himself.

And self-defence is the key problem.

It seems to be causing a domino effect where once a child in one area gets a weapon, others feel they need to follow suit to be safe.

Time and again, the young boys I met in the film told me this:

* "I carry a knife so I won't be begging for my life if someone tries to kill me."

* "I know some kids who carry knives. They carry it for protection or to be cool"

* "To be honest, I still walk with a weapon as I want to be safe."

Politician's answer

I took my findings to Right Hon, Frank Field, MP.

Surprisingly, he admitted that the government has not yet fully got to grips with the issue of youth violence and that they had made mistakes.

"We ought to reconsider the whole of the way we've treated young people with our anti-social behaviour policies.

"If we were thinking of a strategy which is roughing up young people, we would actually come up what the government does.

"I mean I admit here that I am a failure in that I tried to get us before 1997 when we came in, not to follow this route of having an anti-social strategy based on the criminal law.

"The last thing we want to do is to get kids in to the criminal justice system."

Difference of opinion

But it was on his second point that we disagreed.

Frank is promoting an idea where local police officers will work as surrogate parents to troubled kids.

Home Office campaign poster c/o Home Office

Tackling knife crime - Home Office poster.

"One of the reasons why kids are misbehaving is the backgrounds that they come from," says Frank.

"They lack a father figure.

"The father figures that we do have all over the country are policemen and women... They should be the surrogate parents."

Frank feels that this will mean the police can stop kids from getting into serious trouble.

It is sort of like nipping the problem in the bud.

I can see his point but I also believe parents really need to take control of their kids and not pass the buck to social workers, teachers or even the police.

Surrogate parenting?

However, I am amazed to discover that in Lambeth the police are already trying out this surrogate parent idea.

One policeman told me how he took one young lad under his wing and changed his life.

Knives c/o Getty Images and Daniel Bereulak

Getting to the root of the problem.

Albert Looko used to be involved with a local teenage gang, dallying with knives and even guns.

But that all changed when the local bobby took an interest in him as a child and not just a criminal.

Alfred gave up the gang life and now works voluntarily in Vauxhall Farm. He is now a contributing part of society and a success story to boot.

When I started this film, I was adamant tough policing was the only answer. That has not changed.

But it seems that Lambeth police are making a breakthrough using a more gentle approach.

And whatever method they use, if it stops the killing, it has to be a good thing – and Albert proves they are on to a very good thing.

last updated: 17/09/2008 at 18:36
created: 16/09/2008

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