The BBC reported that during the year 2016, a knife or blade was used in a crime every 16 minutes, somewhere in the UK. There were 2,300 victims of knife crime aged 18 or younger last year (2016), records show – a rise of 45% over three years, in England and Wales.
The Metpolice has reported their concerns for the overly frequent knife and gun crimes in England and Wales by young people. While there are several social reasons for this such as; status, criminality and self-protection, none of these are valid enough for the increase in or of gun and knife violence. Whilst the police focus on reducing stabbings by taking these dangerous weapons off the streets, prevention and diversion from knife crime is key. For these reasons, it cannot be solved by the police alone but must work with communities to combat knife crime.
The S.A.V.E march – July 1st 2017
The “young soldierz” a London based charity aimed at fighting against knife and gun violence was endorsed by schools in the positive work they do including this March. The march named Schools Against Violence in Enfield (S.A.V.E), was a community response to the escalating levels of violent crime that has been identified in many parts of London. North London has witnessed a significant number of fatalities involving knives and gang affiliated violence. The March started at Tottenham N17 which is the borough of Haringey and went through Edmonton N18 to N9 which is in the borough of Enfield. There has been a long-term conflict of postal codes between differing boroughs which young people are acutely aware of. This territorial conflict has often resulted in young people being screened and questioned about the authority they have been given to be in a different postcode due to gang rivalry.
Over 70 people were in attendance covering different demographics; ages, races and religious beliefs. Organizations that were present and represented include; Father to Father, Edmonton United Football Club, London United together, Metropolitan police, Local labour MPs, Deputy mayor of Enfield, Eurosolutions lawyers, Close unit protection, Faith lift church, enough is enough (anti violence campaigners), Glory of the Cross Ministry (lead organisers), Redeemed church and Tramway Christian fellowship. Most of these organisations work within their communities to raise awareness against the prevalence of knife and gun crimes. This march was joined by victims of stabbings who survived, parents of victims who died because of stab wounds and concerned parents and civilians. This march was significant as the group marching stopped and prayed at significant points. These prayers were led by different church leaders and culminated to a meeting point in Enfield football club where food and refreshments were served. The march was followed by workshops to educate the community on two topics;
How to use the sustainable development goals to prevent knife and gun violence in the UK
Workshop 1 – delivered by Doctor Sarah Agdomar
This workshop focused on educating the community on mental health with focus on depression and schizophrenia. Through this very interactive session with worksheets and participation, the attendees learnt about different forms of mental health and some signs and symptoms to recognise. Dr. Agdomar carefully highlighted and explained the core symptoms of depressions, how it can affect one’s health, biology and cognition. In addition, she addressed the same concerns, regarding Schizophrenia. She highlighted the link between mental health, the demographic of the community in North London (those attending the march) and the current state of knife and gun violence. This workshop dispelled several myths around mental health and focusing on what we as a community can do to improve this. This workshop was essential to empower, educate and engage with the community, shining light on a topic that is often misunderstood or not openly discussed. It also set the tone for the next workshop on how the community can solve these problems through the sustainable development goals (SDGs).
Workshop 2 – delivered by Elsa Zekeng, PhD candidate
The aim of this workshop was to educate the community on the SDGs which is always interesting to observe how little is still known of the UK’s commitment to the SDGs. Most importantly this workshop identified the root causes of knife and gun crime within our communities. It identified the root causes of the knife and gun violence within the communities and then conceptualised a solution that can be implemented through one of the sustainable development goals (SDGs). This approach is a bottom-up approach, as it focuses on a solution echoed by the needs and concerns of a community. This is crucial when creating and implementing solutions that are sustainable and effective. This workshop was informative and interactive.
The causes identified within the community include;
Societal – Cultural norms that support violence
Community – Glorified “gang” culture, Lack of sustainable community programs as an anti-dote to “violence”
Relationship – Poor parenting practices, single parent home or marital discord, friends that engage in violence, misunderstanding of the education system by parents and facilities available
Individual – Victim violence, unhealthy mental health
The conversation was greatly focused around parenting skills and lack of sustainable community programs to educate parents on different parenting styles and how to be more involved in their children’s lives. The importance of mental health awareness and the implications to the individual and community at large was emphasized.
The solutions conceptualized;
Following the identification of the root causes within the community, the main solution was to focus on Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 – Quality education.
Quality education programs specifically to parents on parenting styles, on mental health, on the power of social media via phones. This is essential to enable parents to connect with their children in the 21st century. Instilling values, rules, regulations and discipline whilst still ensuring their children are living a healthy life.
These will be in the form of parent workshops which will focus on the following;
Understanding the education system
Presence of counsellors in each school to address mental health
Listen to children
Disseminate unconscious bias
Some of these workshops have been previously held in different boroughs and their model can be copied and implemented in other boroughs needing these
Some attendees expressed challenge in effectuating these solutions due to inability to make it sustainable.
The SAVE march served as a perfect opportunity to engage the community, interact, address issues facing these communities and identify solutions that can be implemented. This can therefore be fed back to policy makers and key decision makers for a sustainable implementation process to begin.