The father of murdered student Stephen Lawrence is to lead a new task force to find solutions to London’s knife crime epidemic.
Neville Lawrence will chair a group of community leaders from across London to advise police and the Government on possible action to combat a surge in the number of stabbings and killings.
The 16-strong knife crime reference group will also include academics, role models and those who have lost relatives to violent crime.
The move comes as the Standard launches the second part of a focus on knife crime in London amid mounting concern at the number of murders and assaults.
So far this year, 24 people under the age of 25 have been fatally stabbed — 10 of them teenagers. Mr Lawrence, speaking exclusively to the Standard, said: “We are tasked with coming up with some new ideas about how to tackle the problem.
“This is not going to be a walkover. We are not going to be able to sit down and instantly say this is what we are going to do. There is no simple solution. But you cannot solve anything if you sit there and do nothing.”
In recent weeks 18-year-old Mahad Ali died after when a fight broke out after a warehouse party in East Acton while 16-year-old schoolboy Osman Sharif was knifed to death in front of fellow pupils in Tottenham.
Mr Lawrence said the knife and violent crime reference group included people from different sections of London’s community as well as individuals chosen for the respect they command.
He added: “We have a lot of different people on the group to come up with ideas and then it will be up to the authorities to see if they can be used to help.”
Met Commissioner Cressida Dick, who has personally backed the scheme, has made tackling gun and knife crime a priority and has spoken about putting more effort into preventing violence.
Some of the young people stabbed to death in London in 2016
Scotland Yard has boosted efforts to combat knife violence with a 100-strong squad and is putting greater emphasis on diversionary tactics, such as engaging with schools.
The new group will report to the Met but senior officers say it is an independent body. Mr Lawrence said a key priority would be to seek the views of young people.
He added: “We cannot all know the way young people are thinking on the street so you have to be able to talk to them, get their ideas about how we can stop them carrying knives.”
A-level student Stephen Lawrence was 18 when he was stabbed to death by racist thugs as he walked home in Eltham on April 22, 1993.
Mr Lawrence and his former wife Doreen campaigned for justice after a failed police investigation and a public inquiry which found that the Met was institutionally racist.
Gary Dobson and David Norris were convicted of Stephen’s murder in 2012 but at least four others were involved.
Today Mr Lawrence continues to speak out against violence to schools, colleges and conferences but admitted the work on knife crime would be a difficult challenge. Mr Lawrence, 75, said, personally, he wanted to see a return of local beat officers.
He continued: “I have always said to officers, although you are a police officer you cannot get certain information that an ordinary person can get.
If people don’t trust you then they are not going to talk to you. I think one of the worst things that has happened over the years is the decline in the community police officer who used to get to know people, to talk to individuals and know who is around.
That is one of the most powerful things to have. No one in the community wants people to be stealing things or killing people. If they have someone who they can trust, they will give them the information. Maybe they hear a rumour, if they trust a police officer they will tell them.
“For me, some of the places that I visit, people do come and tell me things, and I can pass it on. But people no longer have anyone who they can give information to. We must think about the ways that we can stop these crimes happening.”
He added: “When I used to live in England I used to see a community police officer walking around. Now there is none.”
Another challenge, he said, would be to persuade young people that it was misguided to carry a knife for protection.
He warned that the weapon could easily be taken from them and used against them.
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