Children as young as six are carrying knives as weapons on some housing estates in London, the city’s Police Commissioner has heard.
At a meeting attended by relatives of knife crime and youth workers in Putney, south west London, Cressida Dick said London is “generally a very safe city”, but that the level of knife crime is “unacceptable”, and vowed to do more.
But attendees told the Commissioner that the problem wasn’t limited to the teenage gangs normally associated with knife crime, the Evening Standard has reported.
“You are talking about teenagers carrying knives, but on the housing estate it’s six-year-olds that are carrying knives, because they think they won’t be stopped,” one woman said.
“You need to start there, in the primary schools – you need to tell much younger people.”
Dick agreed that the message needed to be brought home to younger children, but questioned whether the police were best placed to deliver it, saying: “I am sure we – not necessarily the police, because we’re not the best people often to give these messages, but possibly the police – we need to start at an early age.”
Josh Osbourne, a mentor at the youth charity Carney’s Community, said: “The feeling that I’m getting from a lot of the young people that I work with is a feeling of fear.
“They can’t even cross the road because they’re at odds or in a dispute with somebody else from literally the same postcode but across the road.”
Andy Smith, an employee at the youth social enterprise The Feel Good Bakery reiterated that knives are often carried out of fear, saying: “There’s a lot of young people that say they feel naked if they haven’t got their knife with them.”
Responding to the comments, Dick outlined her plans to tackle knife crime through prevention rather than a retroactive response.
“I want to shift us further into prevention. I want all of us to be working on stopping this before it happens,” she said.
“I want early intervention – I think that’s absolutely the right way to go for all of us, including the police.”
Quizzed on how she intended to deliver, Dick said: “We’re going to come and we’re going to listen. We are investing in dedicated ward officers, we are invested in neighbourhood work.
“We’re working really closely across London, the mayor will be unveiling a knife crime strategy in the future and we will be a part of that.
“But actually community groups, people in communities, the third sector, will be an incredibly important part of that.
“We need to play our part but it is only a part.”
Knife crime has become a priority in London in recent weeks after thirteen people were killed in just three weeks. Among the victims were 17-year-old Elijah Dornelly, stabbed to death on his way home from an anti-knife crime rally; Keith Sinclair, 60, who was found stabbed to death in a flat in Bow; and 20-year-old Karolina Chwiluk, who was allegedly stabbed to death during a row with her ex-boyfriend.