The man who ran Scotland’s anti-knife crime unit has warned there may be opposition to changing the way London tackles youth violence.
Former Strathclyde chief superintendent John Carnochan – co-founder of the Scottish Violence Reduction Unit – has said there was resistance at the highest levels when the attempt to cure violence began.
He said: “We didn’t know we had a problem. We were fabulous at investigating murders. But we never realised for 30 years that all the murders we were investigating were in areas which had been among the poorest for 30 years.
“The mothers of the victims were the same as the mothers of the boys we were locking up. They knew each other. We still had a denial though – chief constables did not recognise the patterns, so I had to describe it to them.
“Everyone knows we have a problem in London. Everyone knows why it’s
happening. Everyone knows the solution and their solution is the best and everyone else’s is not that good.
“The most important years are up to the age of three when health and
social services are all involved.
“Later, teachers are involved and we need them because we need pupils to be in school all the time. If you abolish key performance indicators in schools, you will stop exclusions.
“We had in Scotland a head of secondary schools, John Butcher, who insisted exclusions be the last resort. The amount of gang violence went down because the number of exclusions went down 80 per cent.
“Why look for leadership from politicians when they don’t have the answers. They can raise money and spend it. All the answers are
already there in the community – this isn’t new.
“London is one of few places in England where the suicide of young men is going up. It has risen by 76 per cent in three years. It has gone up five per cent overall in England and Wales.
“We use data and evidence that support what we do. We did not try to bust up gangs because gangs are not the problem.
“I’m in a gang – a golf club. That’s a really terrible gang. It is not the gangs that are the problem but what they do.
“But there is an energy here in London now – we don’t need to look anywhere else – the answers are here.
“Inequality is one of the biggest drivers of violence. Communities we are talking about are among the poorest and have been for 30 years. We are talking about adverse childhood experiences – they are a powerful predictor of where violence will happen. The patient needs to be stabilized. But thinking that bringing the numbers down as an end in itself is dangerous.
“The Met needs to stop tweeting pictures of knives – we know what a knife looks like. And the biggest equality is gender inequality. 99.9 per cent of rapists are men.”
Whitney Iles, chief executive of Project 507, which aims to change the systems and institutions which foster violence, told the meeting: “Almost 50 per cent of people involved in the prison and criminal justice system are BME.
“We have to look at all the lives the system is afflicting. I’ve been focusing on strategies but investment is needed to help people
who put their lives on the line to prevent that happening.
“Last year’s report by David Lammy into the criminal justice system showed that it is more discriminatory than in the USA.
“Scotland had strong leaders, willing to put their careers on the line. We need that political bravery here in London.
“Ebola, HIV and Aids and starvation we see as natural phenomena. But they happen because of systematic failure.
“Violence is similar – prevention is better than cure. We have to deal with the systematic problems with drugs and mental health
problems of young people.
“There are hot spots of violence. The community can come into play. Everyone can identify when the violence is about to happen – they are on Instagram chatting about it.
“We can ask the police to go – to act if someone is leaving the house at 1.30am with a machete. We need to be able to call the chief superintendent and get cars to the location.
“But we need to be able to trust each other. They need to trust my assessment of the risk and I need to be able to trust them so that they will not go overboard.”
Kier Irwin Rogers, an Open University criminologist and volunteer researcher for the PCYV, said: “We are at a crossroads.
“Our recommendations have been accepted. Now we need to hold people to account to make sure the promises are delivered.
“Schools need to be incentivised to keep children. But at the moment they do not have the funding to do that, so they exclude them. It’s entirely tragic and predictable.
“But it can be solved quite easily.”
Niven Rennie, appointed director of the Scottish VRU in July, said: “All the related violence figures dropped in Scotland in the last 10 years.
“We have managed people at their lowest ebb and found a way to turn that around. It took a lot of work – it takes standing in front of the tanks because a lot of people do not like change.
“When there were riots in London recently I had police officers come down to relieve the Met’s officers, who needed to rest.
“Our officers went into all areas and they were talking to residents. It shocked people living there, because they hadn’t seen officers talking to them before.”
Gwenton Sloley, director of Crying Sons, which the Home Office said had saved it £42.5million in the costs of policing investigations because of the lives he had saved, said: “We’re not talking about knives any more – it is swords and machetes.
“A lot of people leave their house to murder. We have people self-medicating on cannabis – which they call flavours – being told by the
people who sell it to them that they are invisible. And they if they think that, they will walk down the road and kill someone.”
The picture shows Home Secretary Sajid Javid and Met Commissioner Cressida Dick on a visit to Brixton last month.
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