A Blackpool councillor who is on the government’s serious violence taskforce joined the Prime Minister in saying: “We can’t arrest our way out of trouble,” in response to the knife crime crisis that has engulfed the country.
Simon Blackburn’s comments came after the government announced new measures that could hold teachers, nurses, and police officers accountable for failing to “spot warning signs” of violent crime amongst young people.
But, while he agreed with Theresa May that “we cannot simply arrest ourselves” out of the problem, he said we are seeing the “inevitable impact” of years of Tory cuts to public services.
He said: “Every agency involved in the fight against violent crime has had its budget slashed over the past decade.
“There’s fewer family support workers, children’s centres, Sure Start centres, youth clubs, positive diversionary activities for young people, fewer neighbourhood police officers and PCSOs, and schools have less money and fewer support and pastoral staff.”
Coun Blackburn said “much of the knife crime we see” is related to drugs, with dealers resorting to violence amid a hike in supply and drop in prices over the past decade.
He added: “I have heard from young people in some of our big cities, who have told me they are more frightened of being caught without a knife by opposition gang members that they are of being caught with a knife by the police.
“This spiral of gang and drug-related violence can only be halted through a combination of education, peer pressure, and the provision of a sense of hope. Many of the young people involved have few, if any, qualifications; don’t have much in the way of aspiration for the future, and are being identified as vulnerable by drug dealers and sucked into a life of crime.”
While London has been the focus of much media attention relating to knife crime recently, Blackpool has had its share of stabbings.
In February, a 13-year-old boy was knifed in the chest close to the Promenade, while, last month, a man was badly hurt in a double stabbing in the town centre.
The home secretary Sajid Javid has floated the idea of a so-called ‘public health duty’ intended to help spot the warning signs that a young person could be in danger, “such as presenting in A&E with a suspicious injury, to worrying behaviour at school or issues at home”.
A consultation will be launched, with the plans similar to a successful approach taken in Scotland, where knife crime is treated as a public health issue.