Below is the text of a letter I sent to the Home Secretary on Tuesday 3rd April - less than 48 hours later this letter was out of date as there was another stabbing in Walthamstow on Thursday 5th April. I will share on here the response I receive from the Home Secretary to this correspondence as and when my office receives it.
I am writing to you following a series of gun and knife crime related incidents in my constituency, in which tragically a number of young residents have lost their lives. I’m writing to urgently request resourcing support for our local police and youth services to enable them to address the causes of this violence, and in particular to investigate the growing access by young children to firearms.
In the last six months we have seen a wave of violent murders and assaults involving young BME residents in our community. These have involved the use of firearms and knives by children – with a fifteen year old arrested for a firearms offence only two weeks ago - and have caused fear amongst local residents and led to an escalation of violence within our area. Below is a chronology of the most serious incidents:
- 7 May 2017 – 17 year old Elijah Dornelly murdered in Walthamstow. 18 year old and 17 year old young residents convicted of stabbing him.
- 2nd November 2017 – 32 year old Muhammed Nawshad Kamal was attacked with acid by two young men in Walthamstow – hospitalised but survived.
- 14th November 2017 – 18 year old stabbed in Subway restaurant – hospitalised but survived. Reports also made that a corrosive substance was used in this incident.
- 16th November 2017 – 18 year old Kacem Mokrane is stabbed in Walthamstow – he died on the 20th November in hospital.
- 19th November 2017 – 17 year old stabbed in Walthamstow - hospitalised but survived.
- 5th February 2018 – 17 year old attends hospital with gun shot wounds following an incident in Walthamstow.
- 14th March 2018 – 20 year old Joseph Williams-Torres shot in Walthamstow and dies from his injuries. A 15 year old boy has been charged with his murder.
- 19th March 2018 – a 41 year old man is stabbed to death in Walthamstow- a 17 year old boy has been charged over this incident.
- 2nd April 2018 – 16 year old Amaan Shakoor shot in Walthamstow and dies from his injuries. His 15 year old friend who was with him was stabbed and hospitalised.
Over the last eight years, I have watched as my local authority and local police have struggled valiantly with cuts to their budgets, seeking to try to keep together vital projects that help engage young residents in positive activities and maintain a policing presence. Drug dealers and organised gangs have targeted young children locally to engage them in their activities, and our services are struggling to support children who have been excluded from mainstream schooling who are then being groomed by these individuals. I fear that this shocking spate of incidents may continue without investment to support both police and youth service provision required to build relationships with the local community and younger residents to help disrupt these activies and encourage them to make positive life choices.
As the enclosed documents show, I have previously written and met with representatives of the Mayor of London’s office about my concerns, and I have also raised the matter of police funding in parliament. So too, locally we have held workshops with younger residents to identify how best to support them and keep them safe as well as regular meetings with residents and the police to discuss these issues. Along with my colleagues from other North East London constituencies I would welcome an urgent meeting with you to discuss this issue, what resources will now be made available to help disrupt the criminal gangs targeting our young people and the need for an urgent investigation into how firearms have become easily accessible to young children in our city.
I look forward to your response and to your assistance in keeping every member of our community in Walthamstow safe,
This morning Tuesday 10th April I attended a summit put together by the Mayor of London to discuss the strategy put forward by his office and the Home Office to help tackle violent crime. At this event I spoke directly to the Mayor and Home Secretary to call again for an dedicated investigation into how young children in our communities are accessing firearms – in particular I raised this recent report by MOPAC regarding theincrease in gun crime in London. When parliament returns I will continue to seek to ensure this is given priority by the police.
As part of this strategy, the Mayor has also set up a £45m Young Londoners Fund to help children and young people to fulfil their potential, particularly those at risk of getting caught up in crime. It will support a range of education, sport, cultural and other activities for children and young people. The 3-year fund will see £30m made available for projects in local communities. The remaining £15m will be invested to expand existing projects funded by City Hall that support young Londoners.
As local government is now in ‘purdah’ ahead of the local elections in May, this funding will not be made available until after these elections have happened. However, ahead of this local communities and charities can register their interest in applying for this funding here:
I would like to encourage all those working with young people or with ideas for projects for Walthamstow to register for this funding. So too, my office is seeking to assist in compiling a database of projects and proposals working in the Walthamstow area on this issue – if you are part of a youth led project or provide activities for young people and would like to be part of this list please send a short paragraph with the details of what your group does and contact information to my office and we will add you this database for circulation in Walthamstow in due course.
Thank you to everyone who made time on the 6th April to attend our meeting – over 100 residents took part in this event which was advertised to all those who had been in touch about this issue previously and on facebook. At the end of this email I have shared below the outcome of the discussion and the top three points made in each section by attendees for your information.
Thank you also to those working directly to provide services tackling these issues locally who came to hear the concerns of local residents. This included Deputy Mayor of London Sophie Linden, Cllr Clare Coghill – Leader of Waltham Forest Council, Superintendent Tania Coulson, inspector Chris Nixon, Daniel Phelps Director of Early Help, Elenora Clarke Head of Youth Justice, Cllr Grace Williams – Cabinet Member for Children and Community Safety, Jane Brueseke- Youth Engagement and Des Brown and the team at Spark2life.
Following this meeting and as a result of the decisions taken by attendees, my office and I are now working with a range of organisations to develop further the ideas around mentoring. We would welcome any offers of assistance local residents can offer to secure corporate funding from their employers for such a scheme for Walthamstow.
PROBLEM : WHAT CAUSES VIOLENCE ON OUR STREETS?
- 1) Traumatic events - predominantly experienced in childhood by the perpetrators and sometimes victims of youth violence. Particular reference was made to domestic violence and child abuse.
- 2) Parenting – the room discussed how issues such as poverty, racism, family breakdown, insecure and inadequate housing, domestic violence, deficits in emotional resilience, lack of boundaries, all undermine supportive and safe parenting which leaves children vulnerable to being groomed by gang associates and leaders.
- 3) Lack of resources – this discussion centred on the fact that there are now less spaces and youth support services for young people. One constituent pointed out that organisations who specialised in working with young Black men particularly, like Reach who provided Black male role models for young people, closed in 2010 following Government cuts. It was also noted that mental health services for young people had also diminished and more holistic, wrap-around support was needed for young people excluded from mainstream education.
SOLUTIONS: WHAT WOULD TACKLE THESE ISSUES?
- 1) School based work including mentoring – organisations like Spark2Life were heralded for their work in supporting young people exit youth violence and the room felt it necessary to increase their outreach and output in local schools. The need for mentoring and positive role models was cited as a priority and Spark2Life relayed that they are an organisation accredited in training mentors.
- 2) Youth Services – creating spaces and activities where young people feel engaged, empowered and supported. Community engagement and outreach by BME role models needs to be increased.
- 3) More relatable policing – more police on the streets and community led policing by a diverse range of police officers, including more BME officers. Participants and young people wanted more dialogue with the police to break down barriers and build trust. A police non-uniform day was also suggested!
PROCESS: TO MAKE THIS HAPPEN WE NEED TO?
- 1) Funding – more money is needed for mentoring schemes and to increase the capacity of organisations like Spark2Life, re-open community spaces, train the police to work more effectively with young people and to increase police numbers.
- 2) Adult mentoring scheme – for local professionals and activists to engage with young people and broaden horizons and opportunities so that young people can thrive.
- 3) Peer mentoring scheme – to build support networks, increase community capacity, address issues such as low self-esteem and celebrate BME identities.
RESPONSIBILITY: THE ONE THING WE CAN EACH DO TO MAKE THIS HAPPEN IS?
- 1) Mentoring – community members offered support in mapping skills, setting up mentor schemes, volunteering as mentors and fundraising.
- 2) More community meetings – to break down barriers and to engage with young people to promote a sense of shared ownership in the community.
- 3) Increased communication and interaction – commitment to raise the awareness among young people regarding the array of services presently on offer and of future events which promote community cohesion.