The deadly cycle of violence and family devastation caused by the use of knives in attacks and assaults has been brought closer to home in the last couple of weeks with the tragic death of 17 year old Jodie Chesney in Harold Hill, near Romford.
The Government has outlined an ambitious programme of interventions in its Serious Violence Strategy, working with services including education, health, social services, housing, youth services, and victim services. The Strategy, which is backed with £40 million of Home Office funding, marks a major shift in the Government's response to knife and gun crime. It strikes a balance between prevention and robust law enforcement with a new £22 million Early Intervention Youth Fund for community projects to help young people live lives free from violence. The strategy identifies the changing drugs market, in particular the devastating impact of crack cocaine, as a key driver of the violence harming communities, and announces a range of powerful actions to tackle the issue of 'county lines' and its implications for drugs, violence and exploitation of vulnerable people. That includes £3.6 million to establish a new National County Lines Co-ordination Centre.
I recently met Essex Police’s Brentwood and Epping District Commander, Chief Inspector Lewis Basford, to discuss how he and his team of officers are tackling the threat of knife crime in the Brentwood and Ongar constituency. The team works closely with Brentwood Borough Council’s Community Safety Partnership and will be carrying out a number of operations as part of a national week of action against knife crime this week. These will include engagement and education events, and publicising the knife crime amnesty bin situated outside the Essex Police policing hub at Brentwood Town Hall.
Essex Police officers are also working with trading standards to ensure that test purchasing is done and checks made on shops that sell knives. They are liaising with the UK Border Agency so if people attempt to import knives bought on the internet the border agency seize the weapons and the police investigate. The Community Policing Team also have plans to work with British Transport Police to do a joint operation targeting knife carrying on public transport and try to stop people coming into the area with weapons.
The Serious Violence Strategy is not solely focused on law enforcement, but also depends on partnerships across a number of sectors. Early intervention can help catch young people before they go down the wrong path, encouraging them to make positive choices. If this is an issue which affects, or has affected you or your family, please get in touch with me so we can work together to tackle this increasingly worrying trend of violence.