My phone has been ringing consistently in the last 24 hours – a succession of calls from journalists wanting to talk about Knife Crime, or to arrange radio and TV interviews to talk about Knife Crime. Prior commitments have meant that I’ve had to turn almost all of those requests down, but this is what I would have said given the chance:
(1) A Long Term Plan
We need a long term plan for dealing with knife crime – at least ten years, preferably twenty. We need to understand that, when problems have been a generation or more in the making, they might just take a generation or more to mend.
We have got to get beyond the relentless demand for quick fixes. The professional and effective use of police Stop & Search powers undoubtedly saves lives, but it is not the long term answer to anything.
(2) A Public Health Approach
We need to re-frame our understanding of violence, recognising that it is at least as much a public health issue as it is a crime problem. Violence is a disease that can be caught and transmitted. But it can also be diagnosed and treated.
(3) Young People as the Answer
The current wave of concern tends to define young people as the problem. In fact, they are a very large part of the solution. We need to involve them in designing and delivering every single aspect of the response to knife crime.
(4) Operational Independence from Political Control
The response to knife crime needs to remain completely independent from any form of political control. When politicians are in charge, experience suggests that the response to any pressing concern remains vulnerable to partisan priorities and shifting political winds. And we simply cannot allow that to keep happening. Some things are far too important to be left to politics. Knife crime is one of them.
(5) Policing at the Heart, but not the Head
Policing will always be first in line to respond to knife crime, and that is exactly as it should be. There is no greater duty or privilege for a police officer than to save a life, but the police should not be in overall charge of the plan. Knife crime is – and has always been – a whole society problem that demands a whole society solution.
There is so much more that might be said but, at this particular moment in time, these seem to me to be the five most important things.