I make no apology for returning to the subject of knife crime. Partly because I know how much it concerns many parents and grandparents I speak to but also because I was one of a selected few to discuss the issue at a recent meeting with Home Secretary Amber Rudd.
This was not because Gloucestershire is perceived as having a bigger problem than many other places. It doesn’t. It is because – and again, contrary to what some might believe – our county is benefiting from a ground-breaking programme of prevention and the Constabulary has been successful in removing hundreds of dangerous people from our streets.
It was interesting to share the thoughts of the Home Secretary, Policing and Fire Service Minister Nick Hurd, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and others, before the Government launched its new advertising campaign #knifefree.
Gun and knife crime is increasing across the country; there is no doubt about that. What is truly shocking is research suggesting the biggest increase is in the 10-17 year age group. Equally worrying is the thought that the 8 or 9 year old you’re collecting from school today could be sucked-in by the time they reach double figures.
Faced with problems like this, public bodies responsible for safeguarding the public opt for what we call ‘a multi-agency approach’, and yes, it is vital that the police, schools, councils, health and other relevant organisations work together. That was the point of the Home Secretary calling the meeting.But a multi-agency approach cannot become an exercise in buck-passing, a blanket of convenience for those involved to hide behind.
I have advocated the need for the authorities to ‘dare to share’ data since before I was first elected so I was greatly encouraged that everyone at the meeting fully supported the principle. No ‘joint-strategy’ will work if the agencies involved don’t have all the necessary information and cannot actively engage in a joined-up fashion. That’s why the Government is introducing legislation that will require agencies to share information.
It is surely the least we can do to keep our young people safe and steer them away from the end of a blade, a thought too dreadful to comprehend.
This article also appeared in the Citizen and Echo 29 March 2018