Founder of Lives Not Knives charity links latest wave of murders to the impact of austerity and the closure of 100 youth centres in Croydon.
By SANJANA IDNANI
The founder of a Croydon-based knife crime prevention charity has joined other community workers in linking the impact of a decade of austerity, which has brought wide-ranging cuts to youth services, to the latest wave of deadly violence on the streets of the capital.
According to figures from the Metropolitan Police, there have been 22 killings of teenagers in London so far in 2021.
The most recent two murders were both in Croydon this month. Camron Smith, 16, was fatally knifed outside his home on the Shrublands Estate. Nine days later another 16-year-old, Demarie Omare Roye, died after being stabbed on Bensham Manor Road.
There was a further serious stabbing in Croydon town centre on Sunday, when a 17-year-old girl had to be flown to hospital by air ambulance after she was stabbed in the arm at McDonald’s on North End.
And according to Eliza Ribeiro, the founder of Croydon charity Lives Not Knives, the spate of stabbings is the result of the underlying lack of hope that the borough’s disadvantaged youths encounter on a daily basis.
“When we ask young people aged 14 to 18 why they carry knives, they’re nonchalant about it,” Ribeiro said.
“Some don’t believe their life matters, so everything becomes in the moment.”
Ribeiro and other youth workers point to the axing of services over the past decade. Funding for youth services has fallen by 70 per cent since 2011, and more than 100 youth centres have closed in Croydon alone.
With Croydon Council in financial meltdown, in November 2020, among the services facing further cuts in the borough were family group conference support, children’s centres and education support services.
This week, a spokesperson for Juvenis, a youth charity, told the Evening Standard, “The impact of austerity and cuts is that places where young people feel safe, such as youth clubs and boxing gyms, are no longer there.”
Other community workers told the Standard that covid created a “perfect storm” for youth violence, as the pandemic has exacerbated inequality for disadvantaged youths. Crime figures also suggest an increase in county lines crimes, in which teenagers are often coerced into helping drugs gangs or face the threat of violence.
Because of the pandemic, vulnerable youths have also faced delays when trying to access mental health services.
Mahamed Hashi, a youth worker and councillor in Lambeth, said that many youngsters resort to carrying weapons as a form of protection. “Many who’ve been victims or witnessed violence feel deep fear when they go out, so unless we give them another way to feel ‘safe’, they are going to carry,” Hashi said.
Another factor is the increased use of stop and search, which has eroded trust between black youths and the police.
In Croydon, according to the most recently available data, between July 2020 and June 2021, of 1,000 people subject to stop and search by the Met, 61.4 were black. The proportion of white people who were stopped and searched was 25.2 in every 1,000.
The effect of pupils being excluded from schools has a similar effect in the erosion of trust in authorities. “Many excluded children have special educational needs or mental health issues that are not diagnosed or are supported too late, because once the child is excluded the damage is done,” Ribeiro said.
“The government is not getting it. We need them to help schools create inclusion units so that struggling children can be supported, rather than sent away to be somebody else’s problem
“It should also be mandatory for schools to educate children and teachers about youth violence, just like with sex education, because that will mean better safeguarding.”
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Austerity, Cuts , Racism against all ethnic groups. social breakdown the list goes on. Having grown up, lived, worked and had to survive in many areas of Civil strife in a few Countries including Brixton, it is not the differences, lack of money or opportunity that cause the issue, they exacerbate it.
I do remember quite well the Political visitors to Brixton in the 80s after both Riots. The pet catchphrase then (and still is) lessons must be learned from this. Lord Scarman provided a reasonable stab at understanding though may will disagree on any of his points but not all. Again it is not the differences that are issues. It is the similarities.
Economic losses – Government cut benefits tax unemployment etc and penalise those hardest hit by unemployment and lack of money. Councils practice party political disobedience and spend on what they want taking risks to force the Government to alter it’s way forgetting the purpose of Local government and sacrificing residents to Political point scoring. (does not mean they are wrong or right just that the residents always suffer especially those who are unable to insulate themselves from the depradations.
Social intransigence sets in.
Less people feel they want to do things in the Community, more keep children at home as bullying robbing violence (or the fear of it) makes parent want to protect their children.
The ones that cannot as both are working or are single parents their children have to deal with the bullying aggression and gangs without any support at all – Authorites like the Police stereotype them by the age of 12 or earlier as they have been uncontrolled since the age of 5 rarely attending school and playing on the streets then being brought into gangs so they ”feel safe” and have elders looking out for them.
They are just trying to survive as after calling the police or seeing what happens to friends who call the police makes them less likely to go down that avenue.
No one will go to bat for them as they are local causes of anti social behavior so they get angry and feel abandoned. And that is just the kids.
Now factor in that 16 – 25 year olds are hit hard as their employment opportunities are mostly gone. The single men of all races face the fact they are not vulnerable will rarely get social housing and end up de facto homeless – no address – no job little benefits.
Now add in local shops business and owner residents many on the breadline and in debt. Councils raise tax cut services or fail to provide them then fine those unable to maintain to the rules set. pop in camera’s and make residents have to go through tons of admiistration and legalities and processes to rectify a wrongful decision.
Add in the failures to communicate with residents and calling the Police when they protest.
Add in the planning decisions and perceived corruption of administrations
Add in the total impotence of Policing and a cut to their resources and abilities to act reasonably
fairly and the mistakes that officers make (as everyone does at some time) that are magnified thousandfold.
Can anyone tell me which person from Jenryck to Kerswell to Dick to Ali has learned those lessons from the Cities Riots including 2011 and implement something that at least stops adding petrol onto the raging bomfire?
(Apologies for the generic’s and I do appreciate there are more complexities)
If you need some ideas here are a few starters – Why stop and search – use mobile metal detectors and mobile CCTV a boxed area and just search those that evade or dump. How about asking residents what they would like to see done. Work the ideas and make them viable and get local support for doing this.
Bring back limited school buses and give children in difficult areas a chance to attend regularly and their parents a level of confidence they will be safe to and from and not a target for postcode fights like on the 198.
postpone developments totally until the full support services are in place including enforcement resourced 24hrs a day.
Make processes user friendly and user centered and prevent alienation of large sections of the community.
Better yet 70 Councillors get of their backsides and take a break from what they think is their role and hold a local meeting not just for party members but everyone and start listening to what individuals problems are. You will find themes there across the Borough. Stop thinking of cant do but what and how – we have decades of problems to solve in the Borough taking the first real step is the hardest but not taking it is the most dangerous for everyone.
Yes these cost money but start with Volunteers and matched funding you might be surprised how that works – Remember a light does not really cost £800 nor does a slum b+b cost £150 a night nor a resident in a sheltered accomodation cost £2500.
(Apologies for the generic’s and I do appreciate there are more complexities but seriously look at what is being paid and what is being received)
We can no longer afford to pay 5 star prices for slum style services either