£18m funding to tackle knife crime

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The Independent Online

More than £18 million will be spent on tackling crimes involving knives, guns and gangs over the next two years, Home Secretary Theresa May said today.

The funding announcement comes after former EastEnders star Brooke Kinsella, whose 16-year-old brother Ben was stabbed to death three years ago, highlighted the best ways to combat the issue.

The 27-year-old actress, who was appointed a Government adviser on the issue last year, called for anti-knife crime presentations for schools and more work with young children to stop them getting involved.

Mrs May said: "Brooke Kinsella has done a great job in highlighting what works and what could work better in trying to achieve that.

"Off the back of Brooke's recommendations, we will invest money into changing attitudes and behaviour, alongside being tough on those who persist in being involved in senseless crimes."

In her report, Ms Kinsella called for more anti-knife projects in schools, more data-sharing between police, schools and other agencies and a scheme to deal with the "fear and fashion" factor of knives.

"I really believe the problem of knife crime has escalated in the past few years, and the impact it has on communities and families is devastating," she said.

Ms Kinsella - who played Kelly Taylor in EastEnders from 2001 to 2004 - began working with the Tories before the election on knife crime, and spent July and August talking to project leaders and community workers about the issue.

Her brother died on June 29 2008 after a fight in a bar spilled out on to the streets in Islington, north London. He had been celebrating the end of his GCSEs.

At the weekend, a teenager became the UK's latest victim of knife crime when he was fatally stabbed in front of a stationary bus full of passengers in south London.

Daniel Thompson Graham, 18, was repeatedly knifed near East Dulwich railway station in the early hours of Saturday morning.

Last month, figures from Britain's largest force showed knife crime rose by more than 8% last year compared with 2009.

The Metropolitan Police said serious youth violence also rose, up 3.1%, but gun crime fell by 10%, with 352 fewer reported offences.

Children as young as 10 should be given anti-knife crime awareness lessons in schools, Ms Kinsella said.

"Whilst seven may be deemed too young for some of the content I experienced in the projects I visited, it seems to be the majority opinion that education and awareness needs to start at primary school level, particularly in the last year before they move up to secondary school and become more susceptible to peer pressure and influence."

And she said more work was needed to turn prisons and young offenders institutions into "places of punishment" as they were often seen as "a holiday camp".

"Many young offenders said they actually become accustomed to life in a young offenders institution, with some describing it as 'a holiday camp'.

"Just as the new Government is making it more beneficial to work than to be on benefits, so too must we turn prisons and institutions back into places of punishment, where people want to get out and ensure they don't go back."

There were also "gaps" in the projects available, she said, and more work to tackle knife-wielding girl gangs was also needed.