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Police chief: I’m determined to see a fall in knife crime

MOTIVATED: Met Police Commissioner Cressida Dick believes that a drop in knife crime in London is realistic

IN AN interview with 'The Voice', Metropolitan Police chief Cressida Dick has pledged her commitment to working with London’s black community to tackle the issue of knife crime.

Last week, Dick attended a community event in Wandsworth, south London, where she met the family of Lewis Elwin, a local 20-year-old man who died after being stabbed in 2016.

She also spoke with charity workers and reformed gang members. During the meeting she heard that children as young as six were being given knives to carry by older youths. The issue of knife crime has hit the headlines again in recent weeks following the deaths of 14 people in the capital in the space of just a few weeks. Just over half of these victims were from a minority ethnic community.

Speaking to The Voice, Dick acknowledged that black and minority ethnic (BAME) individuals have felt a disproportionate impact of these attacks. She said:

“I am very concerned, personally, about any homicide.

TACTIC

“When you put all the pictures up on the wall, as I did the other day, there are a lot of people from black and minority ethnic communities.”

Dick outlined what she sees as some of the key solutions. She said that the use of stop and search was a key tactic in tacking the issue. The Commissioner acknowledged that it had been disproportionately used on BAME people, making this is a sensitive area.

However, she said she was confident that people now backed the Met’s use of the tactic, especially if it was done with a greater focus on intelligence-led policing. She said:

“I would absolutely recognise that this has been, historically, a very controversial issue. What I find now, though, is that the vast majority of people are very supportive of the police doing stop and search if it is done in an intelligent way, areas where there is high knife crime, where you are stopping and searching people who habitually carry knives, where you have the grounds, when it is done lawfully and courteously.”

She added:

“I firmly believe that good, community-based, intelligence-led enforcement action can have an impact and will have an impact on knife crime. We can, and have been, locking up habitual knife carriers and knife crime offenders more, we can be getting more information and intelligence from communities about who carries knives and why."

"We can help divert people who are carrying knives, particularly young people or first time offenders, into other, better ways of living their lives, but this is a very complicated issue.”


The family of Lewis Elwin, who died after a stabbing in 2016

Responding to our interview however, campaigners urged her to rethink her support for stop and search and to involve young people from BAME communities in the design and delivery of strategies to tackle knife crime.

A spokesperson for Stop-watch, an organisation that works to promote effective, accountable and fair policing and inform the public about the use of stop and search welcomed the Commissioner’s commitment to tackling knife crime, but told The Voice:

“We need to see forms of engagement that ensure young people and others from impacted communities are included in the design, delivery and oversight of anti-knife-crime strategies."

"If young people and the police are to work together to combat serious violent crime, then the police must first listen to, understand, and accept that many young people do not feel the police protect them.

“This is partly because they feel they are unfairly stereotyped by police and are disproportionately subject to ineffective stop and searches.”

But Dick pointed out the Met’s willingness to work with communities. She said:

“I absolutely don’t think the police are the only answer to fighting this problem; far from it.

MOBILISE

“I am determined, in my commissionership, that we see a fall in levels of knife crime. We need communities to mobilise – which I think they are doing – and we need to get everybody engaged in fighting it.”

There has been much discussion over the years about the black community’s lack of trust of the police. Dick spoke of the work she has already done in this area over the past 34 years.

“Building trust has been at the heart of my philosophy of policing for as long as I’ve been doing it,” she said.

“I worked very hard in the early 2000s, implementing the Stephen Lawrence inquiry report, working on race and diversity issues and then working with gun crime, leading the organised crime in Trident teams that were instrumental, I think, in reducing the level of gun crime homicide and building much better relationships with the black community.”

The Commissioner also believes that the relationship between the black community and the Met has improved. She said:

“I look back and think how much better they are than 20 years ago. I think it has improved for the better.”

Dick added:

“I think we need to continue to work together. I would like people in all our communities to send a message that carrying a knife is dangerous.”

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