National Chair John Apter today attended Downing Street’s knife crime summit headed by the Prime Minister, but questions remain over the Government’s next move.
This afternoon over 100 experts, including Met Commissioner Cressida Dick, gathered to discuss how an improved multi-agency response could become part the solution to the knife crime epidemic which Home Secretary Sajid Javid described as a “disease rotting our society”.
PFEW Chair John Apter, said: “Today I spoke with Policing Minister Nick Hurd on behalf of all our members and reminded him of how much policing has been affected by his party’s austerity measure with almost 22,000 fewer officers than on the streets since 2010 leaving them struggling to meet the demands placed on them.
“And I can say yes, everyone at the meeting were on the same page, we all want to see an end to this terrible epidemic – but what next? It’s now in the hands of the Home Secretary and Prime Minister. We can’t just solve the problem with a chat. What I want to see come from this meeting is something tangible - but it is going to cost hundreds of millions to put right and that will only happen if there’s a genuine commitment to resolving this issue.”
More onus could be placed on the police as the Government considers introducing a new law which will make it a legal ‘public health duty’ for officers to raise the alarm if they suspect a young person is currently, or at risk of becoming, caught up in knife crime.
Professionals in health, education, social services, housing and the voluntary sector work will also be held accountable and will expected to report if a young person turns up at A&E with a suspicious injury, to worrying behaviour at school or issues at home, if the legislation is given the green light.
The Home Office hopes the sharpened focus on early intervention will bolster its Serious Violence Strategy and will get to the root causes of violent crime.
“There has been mention today of a public health duty to report concerns about young people involved in knife crime. The police already have an obligation to report concerns and criminality, and are committed to steering young people away from the wrong path, Mr Apter added. “The NHS, police and other public sector services are working together now better than ever before, and I agree this can be improved, but surely collaboration rather than coercion is the way forward?
“Let’s be under no illusion, the responsibility for addressing this problem lies firmly with the Government and it is in their gift to do something positive and decisive. The public deserve strong leadership - less talk and more action - to end this devastating situation.”
Young people with experience of living in communities impacted by serious violence also attended the conference to share their insights. And Mrs May spoke privately with the families of a number of victims of knife crime to listen to their first-hand experiences of this issue.
Last month, the Government approved £100 million of emergency funding to pay for police overtime and to set up violent crime reduction units after a roundtable was held with the National Police Chiefs’ Council.