I thought it might be useful to share information myself and other representatives have received following the spate of stabbings earlier in the year and my own and other local councillors thoughts on some of the issues. Most of the information I’ve provided has come from the Council and the Integrated Gangs Unit (IGU). It also follows meetings Councillor’s and Karen Buck MP have had with the Borough Police Commander and others.
The Council deals with youth violence through a strategy called Your Choice. This strategy is aimed at preventing and diverting young people from gang and youth violence by providing opportunities for employment and training, with enforcement action taken if necessary.
At the forefront of this is the Integrated Gangs Unit I mentioned, a team from various agencies who all work together. These include dedicated police officers, Gang Outreach Workers from various backgrounds, a Child & Adolescent Mental Health (CAMHs) specialist, an ex-offender (St Giles Trust), Senior Probation Officer, Girls & Gangs worker, an Analyst, Employment Coach and council enforcement officers.
Between 13th March 2016 and June, there were ten incidents involving suspected drug dealers and violence, seven of which have direct connections with North Westminster, and three with possible connections.
The police response included:
- The arrest of a 17 year old who lives in Queens Park for attempted murder in relation to a violent incident involving a Ladbroke Grove male on 18th This incident happened at the junction of Harrow Road and Third Avenue.
- Two further arrests of young people with links to Westminster, but no longer live on the borough.
- Warrants were conducted at the homes of four local gang members. Two influential members were arrested for possession of drugs with intent to supply.
Current IGU activities in response to recent incidents included:
- A ‘Stop Violence meeting’ with the Mozart ‘youngers’ on 20th April. This is in line with other meetings that have taken place across the borough linked to violence reduction. This is the second one to have taken place on the Harrow Road/Queens Park.
- Close links, support, and liaison with local Youth Projects, including a recent meeting with community representatives and members of the voluntary sector focused on tackling local problems and behaviour.
- Regular street work sessions around Harrow Road / Avenues
- Mediation sessions between RBKC and Mozart individuals
- Sessions to groups in specific schools affected – primary / secondary and Westminster City College
- Information sharing between Brent, Kensington and Hammersmith on youth violence and peer to peer child sexual exploitation, with specific focus on Harrow Road.
- Support and enforcement on individuals consistently involved in violence. Including restriction of movements and activities through post-conviction Criminal Behaviour Orders (CBO) and civil injunctions where required.
- Increase in policing presence around the Harrow Road area.
As local Councillors we will work with Karen Buck MP and do our part in lobbying for continued funding for the IGU, which does such important work. We also want the Council, Police and other agencies to communicate better with residents and community stake holders.
Labour Councillors think work on scoping out how we can better identify those children/teenagers who might be at risk of becoming involved in gang activity, is incredibly important. We also have pushed to ensure the Council intends to bring together stakeholders on this issue on a regular basis, and that the Police will also aim to improve their communications with local groups.
It was clear from the Borough Commander that a new approach to local policing is in prospect due to the changes in City Hall with Mayor Sadiq Khan. This is something we all welcome.
Myself and other Councillors are deeply concerned about the cuts to youth services, and the impact that the ripping out of this important social infrastructure will have on our communities. Youth violence and ASB is on the rise in the areas where these services are either under threat, or already shut down. The work that these groups do cannot be understated, yet is sadly at risk.
It cannot be far from anybody’s mind the tragedy of how young the people involved in this violence are, and the alarming thought that a number of the recent stabbings could very well have been fatal.
I’ll keep people updated as things develop.