Whilst we do not know the details, these unconnected, yet horribly similar, deaths, would seem to have reached a new low in the ever-increasing youth violence being perpetrated in our communities. With some notable exceptions, the general connection with youth homicide is of young people involved in gangs and the drugs trade. These deaths would seem to be worryingly otherwise. Are we now seeing completely random and pointless violence just for the sake of it? Are we witnessing a modern blood lust?
For something to be so newsworthy it has to be unusual, and these deaths are. This in turn leads to the almost apoplectic response we are seeing. The prime minister is being urged to take control; the Home Secretary is promising action. The call goes up from across the country, “enough is enough” and so it is, but this usually leads to calls for ever harsher punishment, but this does not work as a deterrent. As fast as we lock people up, even more will take their place. We should not rely on the promise of more laws changing the issues, or that huge sums of money need to be thrown at tackling violent crime, in the belief it will change what is happening, It will not.
There is much talk of long term, public health approaches to these crimes, but this is urgent, what is our immediate response? In London young people are being stabbed every day, thank fully most are not fatal. At least we still care, and have not succumbed, yet, to complacency. The anger and passion that has risen from these two deaths in particular, has the potential to be the tipping point.
When my son was murdered, some ten tears ago, it was in the middle of a spate of violence that went on to claim some 28 young lives in the capital that year. This led to robust police action and indeed for the following and subsequent years the instances of youth murders lessened, until now when it is on a path that seems to have no end.
“So our immediate response should be to enable our police services to do what they are trained to do, without constant political interference. These should only be short-term measures, to lessen the awful loss of life we are suffering.”
For the longer term, much has been made of the work done in Scotland and there is an ever-growing cohort of anti violence units, gang intervention organisations, victim champions and the rest, which may well have an impact in time. Although you have to ask yourself what has all the effort, and millions of pounds spent over the last ten to twenty years done? And will this just be more of the same, or will we now state “this is a national disgrace, and in all humanity cannot continue”.
Much of the violence we are witnessing is, I believe, learned behaviour. I don’t pull this assumption out of a hat, but base it on the people my wife and myself have met in prison, and during our national school visits the stories we have heard from teachers. When young people are first displaying worrying tendencies, as indeed was our Jimmy’s killer, what as a society is our response? Just relegating someone to a pupil referral unit with out any other action will keep the issue going. We have to be more proactive and imaginative if we are to make any inroads.
These ever increasing fatalities among young people are a national disgrace and it needs a national response. Someone needs to be appointed to take the lead nationally and start changing the narrative that ever-harsher punishment will stop this, it won’t. The appointee needs to work cross party; all politics must be taken out of this. As Louise Casey said recently, “we need a prevention and cure strategy, and it needs to be lead nationally”.