Hackney police chief: ‘We can’t get to the bottom of knife culture’

Hackney borough commander, Det Ch Insp Simon Laurence

Hackney borough commander, Det Ch Insp Simon Laurence - Credit: Archant

Hackney’s top police chief has admitted his force can’t get to grips with the borough’s knife culture.

The panel answered some awkward questions at the event on Tuesday

The panel answered some awkward questions at the event on Tuesday - Credit: Archant

Speaking at a passionate public debate on how to make Hackney safer, Det Ch Supt Simon Laurence said his officers, and other authorities, had to find a way to stop the problem.

He was joined on the panel at City Academy, Homerton, on Tuesday by deputy mayor Cllr Sophie Linden, who is the council’s crime safety boss, Cllr Carole Williams and three Hackney success stories; founder of community organisation Salaam Peace Dr Sabir Bham, author and youth worker Emeka Egbuonu and barrister Tunde Okewale.

The subject of knife crime came up when a man who had moved to Hackney from abroad five years ago explained he had always felt safe in the borough until having a knife held to his throat while walking with his partner last week.

“The issue of children and knives is something we can’t get to the bottom of,” admitted Det Ch Insp Laurence. “Last week 25 knives were recovered. When we do stop and searches we find them and when we arrest someone they have a knife on them. They think it’s acceptable and it’s about what we can do to break this culture.”

Mr Okewale explained the thinking of people who carry knives by recounting an incident from his time at Cardinal Pole school when a man ran in and stabbed someone in the corridor.

“There were lots of people who didn’t want to carry one but thought if they didn’t they would become a victim,” he said.

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Others said the authorities were reacting to the problem too late, and children needed to be taught from an early age about the dangers.

Keeley Burns, mum of Charlie Burns, a Hackney teen who was stabbed to death in 2014, spoke passionately about how despite having no funding she had set up the Charlie Burns Foundation, regularly going into schools to talk to children.

“We’ve had no money whatsoever,” she said. “But if your heart is in it you can get stuff done without money.”

Other issues covered on the night were the lack of police on the streets due to funding and the broken dialogue between communities and the authorities.

Det Ch Supt Laurence acknowledged the issue but said there were great organisations such as Salaam Peace or The Crib, where Mr Egbuonu works, for youngsters to leave their problems behind.

Other audience members echoed Mrs Burns’ comments that a lack of resources was merely an obstacle to overcome. One young man had set up Young Pro Mag, a magazine written by youngsters who don’t make it as professional footballers, to help keep them off the streets.