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Evening Standard Comment: Knife crime epidemic – We must stop children dying on our streets

Jeremy Selwyn

ews that a seven-year-old brought a knife into school with the intention of stabbing a friend at the after-school club should send shockwaves through us all, but even more worrying is that we now hear this is far from a one-off.

As David Cohen’s special investigation reveals today, many headteachers are getting in touch with frontline charity Lives Not Knives about a rising tide of knife crime incidents, many involving children as young as seven and eight.

It is more than two years since the Mayor performed a U-turn and created a Violence Reduction Unit after initially resisting our calls to do so, but as we report, it is neither as independent nor as apolitical as the Glasgow model — the gold standard for adopting the trauma-informed approach that addresses underlying causes.

Critically, it has not been used to hold the Mayor to account. All this as violent teenage deaths in 2021 threaten to become the worst on record with 22 already this year.

The Met, too, must up its game. It has a tough job, but police-community relations we hear are at an all-time low ebb. Stop and search needs to be used more intelligently and be augmented with initiatives to build bridges and improve relations.

On school exclusions, the Government is facing the wrong way, failing to recognise the data that links excluded children with rising criminality.

And with children facing eight-month waits before they get the mental health support they need, youth workers are saying we face “a perfect storm”.

Ultimately, we need our leaders to urgently focus on the overwhelmingly priority — preventing children from dying on our streets, which remains a stain on our society.