Violent crime meeting: Spike in stabbings and shootings has left Hackney’s youngsters ‘too scared to go out’

The panel at the crime event in Stoke Newington. Picture: Lucas Cumiskey

The panel at the crime event in Stoke Newington. Picture: Lucas Cumiskey - Credit: Archant

Youngsters in Hackney are scared to go out because of the surge in stabbings and shootings this year.

Members of Hackney Labour and the panel at the meeting. Picture: Lucas Cumiskey

Members of Hackney Labour and the panel at the meeting. Picture: Lucas Cumiskey - Credit: Archant

Those were the words of the town hall’s community safety chief Cllr Caroline Selman, who was speaking at a community meeting to discuss gun and knife crime.

The event, hosted by Hackney Labour’s Ethnic Minority Forum (EMF), was well attended and an animated audience discussed the “crisis situation” on the borough’s streets.

It was held at St Matthias Church in Wordsworth Road, Stoke Newington, a short walk away from Shakspeare Walk, where Daniel Frederick was stabbed to death near his doorstep on January 8.

Daniel is one of the six people to be killed in Hackney this year and the panel of community workers and crime chiefs tried to make sense of the surge in senseless killings.

Cllr Selman also said the terrifying rise in violence was affecting the borough’s youngsters.

She said: “One of the most heartbreaking things over the Easter holidays was how many young people were talking about how scared they were to go out.”

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Leroy Logan MBE, a retired police Chief Inspector, who now runs social justice charity Voyage, said it was down to government cuts. He said: “Youth workers have been decimated and this has accelerated under austerity,”

“They didn’t realise that youth workers were actually advocates on the streets.

He added that as youth workers and community support officers are being scaled back, criminals are moving in.

“Young people who are getting groomed on the streets to do all sorts of madness,” he said.

Taz Adia, youth leader at North London Muslim Community Centre, works with around 420 youngsters a year. He doesn’t think enough parents volunteer their time to help young people.

He added: “We need to create a community were we stand together and we are all united.”

The proceedings followed a “Question Time” style, and one audience member said: “We know the incarceration of our young people is profitable as prisons and security firms are big stock market businesses.”

The panel was then asked: “How can we stop knife and gun crime becoming a big business for share holders in the stock market?”

Janette Collins, from the Crib youth project, said: “The only way we are going to be able to cure things in Hackney is don’t sell police services, which is what they are trying to do at the moment.

“Once the police services start becoming private entities it’s obvious that they will want to make money.”

She added that it costs roughly £30,000 to keep someone in prison for a year and suggested this money could instead be used to safeguard and enrich the lives of young people.

“Pupil referral units have become a very big business in our society and we need to challenge that,” said Janette.

“When you exclude a child from school you may as well say to them here is your prison number.”

Caroline highlighted that the probation services have been privatised under successive Tory governments. This started in 2014, under the then Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling.

Leroy then laid into the Met Police ‘Gangs Matrix’, a database created post-London riots, which was this month dubbed “racially discriminatory” by Amnesty International’s Trapped in the Matrix report.

He said: “Once young people are on the Gangs Matrix, if they are associated with anyone who may have committed a serious offence, it is easier to get a joint enterprise conviction.”

Leroy added: “Unfortunately, I get the sense that it is a pre-Lawrence era in terms of trust and confidence in the police.”

Janette said once someone was on the Matrix, it was difficult to get off, and described one case where police attended an address to speak to a young man in connection with a crime, only to be told by his mother that he had died years earlier.

The panelists all agreed parties bring people together across postcodes, generations and ethnicities. They said that festivals in Clissold park, Hackney Downs and Stoke Newington, which no longer receive funding, had given young people a creative outlet.

Caroline and Janette agreed that apps like Parents Voice were useful, as they teach adults the tell-tale signs their child might be getting groomed into a gang.

The EMF plans to create a report from the meeting and present recommendations to Hackney Council.