Heather Harper MBE is the Chairman of Conservatives Abroad and a former Crimestoppers Volunteer of the Year.
Yet another knife murder? There’s so much media coverage about the pros and cons of putting more police on the street and more money being needed to solve the terrible epidemic of knife crime – but that’s not the solution alone.
Here’s why: with a quick trawl into my 20-year-plus archives, I dug out some incentives successfully integrated into communities to tackle knife crime. These were undertaken during the years when I was a volunteer with the charity Crimestoppers and Thames Valley Police.
Over the last two decades, along with other great partnerships, including DrugFam, I participated in numerous Crimestoppers campaigns and police operations to tackle the scourge of knives on the streets:
- Think this keeps you safe?
- Knife amnesties
- Say No to Knives
- Knives Cost Lives
- Rat on a Rat
- Drug Dealers Deal in Death
The list goes on. We worked with the families of Damilola Taylor (the young boy who was knifed to death 19 years ago), Ben Kinsella, and many many others who lost their loved ones to street crime.
Back to now. I’m observing an increasing blame culture: blaming the Government and police for not stopping these terrible crimes – and almost everything else.
Let’s stop blaming others for anything that is not right in the community, and think about how we could ‘do something’ to help to fix this. From the many campaigns and incentives I have witnessed over the years, I know therein lies sound knowledge for successfully combating crime when targeted correctly.
Knife crime isn’t new, as evidenced from my 20-year-old archives. But reality is it is currently growing like a disease at an alarming rate in some areas, and like any other disease we must look at the root cause of why it has been spreading over such a long time, and then tackle it at source.
I believe ‘doing something’ about it begins at home. I don’t think the majority of perpetrators wake up with the intent of taking a life. Maybe some do, but either way we need to understand why it happens and do our best to prevent it happening again and again.
I suspect when news breaks of yet another fatality, people think not only of the pain brought to the immediate families but “thank God it’s not one of ours – but it could be”. Seventeen lives (at the moment of writing) have already been lost to knife crime this year. It affects all of us, not one particular group or race or creed, not just the victims or broken families, or those related to the perpetrators.
Families educate from within, but in our busy lives we need to be more alert to when something isn’t right. The reality is that nobody gets lessons on being a parent and – in an age when children absorb so much from the internet – perhaps its time they did.
I’ve also noticed that many times a family bravely takes on the challenge of trying to understand why they have lost a loved one, they get involved and try to help prevent more crime, and another campaign starts. Daily, via the media, I hear dedicated people offering solutions and preventative measures.
These include creating more youth activities that have largely disappeared, teaching respect for those in authority, powerful messages from the criminal justice system, knife amnesty schemes, and many more. We need to link up the thinking, pool research and knowledge, and combine valuable experience with the latest ideas to support the incentives to help stop this horrible ‘disease’.
I don’t profess to have the answers but looking through my archives, much of which are pre-digital, I believe the human resource, the will, and the expertise to help tackle this from within communities is out there.
We can all ‘do something’. The dialogue begins at home, teaching the consequences of this anti-social behaviour at an early age and reiterating it through the often difficult teenage years. To quote another campaign: “Be blunt – knives end lives”
Let’s take a good look at our own neighbourhoods, too. Focus on cohesion in the community instead of diversity, stop blaming the local services and support them instead, and find time to reflect on how we might contribute to make our own communities healthier and safer.
At the very least, start searching for solutions at home.