Stabbing death toll 'will keep rising' unless government implements effective strategy, police warn

Pressure mounts on government to combat ‘national crisis’ after teenagers stabbed to death

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Correspondent
Monday 04 March 2019 21:27
'There is no shortcut or single solution to solve knife crime, ' says home secretary Sajid Javid

The death toll from stabbings will keep increasing until the government implements an effective strategy to combat violent crime, police leaders have warned.

John Apter, chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales, told The Independent: “Until the government can come up with an effective strategy to combat this epidemic, the death toll will keep on rising.

“Policing has been stripped to the bone and the consequences are clear for all to see. This country is in the grip of a terrifying spiral of violent crime and both the police service and NHS are struggling to cope.

“What makes this more sickening is it was predicted. This is the true cost of austerity that we warned of but were ridiculed for doing so.”

A senior Metropolitan Police officer said he could not “magic officers out of thin air” amid calls to increase patrols in the capital following the murder of a teenage girl.

Meanwhile in Manchester, relatives of a 17-year-old boy who was stabbed to death said they were living “every parent’s worst nightmare”.

Theresa May oversaw budget cuts to police as home secretary and accused the Police Federation of “crying wolf” over the potential consequences in 2015.

On Monday, she insisted there was “no direct correlation between certain crimes and police numbers”.

“What matters is how we ensure that police are responding to these criminal acts when they take place, that people are brought to justice,” the prime minister added.

“But what also matters is, as a government, that we look at the issues which underpin this use of knives and that we act on those. That’s a cross-government approach, it’s not just about the police.”

Police forces across England and Wales have lost more than 20,000 officers since 2010, and the government was criticised for using council tax to increase budgets.

Graham McNulty, Metropolitan Police deputy assistant commissioner, said more violent crime officers were being put on duty to carry out stop and search and other prevention work.

He said knife crime was running at a “high” in London, adding: “We really need to make an intervention to stop it, which is why we’re putting extra officers out, why we’re utilising stop and search and we want to stop it escalating further.”

Flowers laid in memory of Romford stabbing victim Jodie Chesney

Mr McNulty admitted cancelling rest days for officers and extending shifts, adding: “I can’t magic officers out of thin air … they are working incredibly hard in difficult circumstances.”

Detective Superintendent Shabnam Chaudhri, an officer investigating the stabbing of 17-year-old Jodie Chesney said: “I would love to have more officers but I work with the resources I’ve got.”

No arrests have been made over the killing on Friday night, which was branded a “totally random and unprovoked attack” by Jodie’s family.

On Saturday, 17-year-old Yousef Ghaleb Makki was stabbed to death in Hale Barns, near Altrincham.

His family described the private school pupil as a “dedicated and bright student”, adding: “Only recently had we talked about his promising life ahead of him and how he was looking forward to life.”

Sajid Javid is to chair a meeting of chief constables to address violent crime on Wednesday.

Sara Thornton, chair of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, said rising violence must be “treated like a national emergency”.

“Part of the conversation [with the home secretary] will be about what investment in policing is needed to help us control and bring down violence in the short to medium term,” she added. “But policing tactics won’t address the root causes of violence and stop the cycle.”

In the House of Commons, Mr Javid defended what he said was a record £970m increase in police funding for 2019-20 and said a consultation would start shortly on a statutory duty to prevent violent crime.

Yousef Makki, 17, was stabbed to death in Hale Barns, Greater Manchester, on 2 March

The home secretary said Yousef and Jodie were the “latest victims in a cycle of senseless violence that is robbing young people of their lives across the country”.

“There is no hiding from this issue,” Mr Javid added. “Serious violence is on the rise [but] there are no shortcuts, there is no one single solution.”

Hailing the Offensive Weapons Bill and new knife crime prevention orders, he said all government departments would be involved in a new “public health approach” to knife crime.

But earlier on Monday, the health secretary Matt Hancock disputed a suggestion by the London mayor that knife crime was a “public health issue”.

“It’s a crime issue. People stabbing people, first and foremost, is a crime and you’ve got to hold the perpetrators to justice and accountable,” he told LBC.

“If you try to say that it’s a public health issue that implies that it’s nobody’s fault. The criminals who are murderers, it’s their fault.”

MPs called on the government to act urgently on the “national crisis” following a spate of murders, after fatal stabbings hit the highest number on record and statistics showed a 93 per cent rise in under-17s being stabbed over the past five years.

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Louise Haigh, Labour’s shadow policing minister, said the bloodshed “must be a cause for action”.

“It is a national crisis and it requires national leadership from the prime minister and home secretary – warm words are no longer enough,” she added, calling for a summit backed with emergency funding for police.

Sarah Jones MP, chair of the all-party parliamentary group on knife crime, suggested the prime minister should hold a meeting of the emergency Cobra committee.

Lord Hogan-Howe, the former Metropolitan Police commissioner, called for a knife crime “tsar” to coordinate nationwide action.

“It’s not just London, it’s right across the country,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “The most obvious connection is usually deprivation.”

Mark Burns-Williamson, chair of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, said the government also needed to address “dramatic reductions” in youth services and the significant rise in school exclusions.

Mr Apter, chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales, added: “How many more children will have to die before the government takes action?

“Politicians from all areas have been so focused on Brexit that they have failed to see what is happening in their own towns and cities. The public deserve better.”

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