Standing up to knife crime in Croydon

By - Monday 21st May, 2018

The local community must come together to find long-term solutions to this tragic problem

Come and meet the people behind Music Relief – who run workshops and creative sessions – at the event.
Photo by Music Relief, used with permission.

It’s always disheartening to hear or read about incidents of knife crime in the news, but when these incidents involve your neighbours, it’s not only devastating but worrying too. On 8th August 2017 Jermaine Goupall was brutally murdered. Jermaine’s death was the result of a rivalry between Croydon gang CR0 and Thornton Heath gang CR7, even though he had no involvement with either. At just fifteen years old, Jermaine was one of the youngest people in the country to die as a result of knife crime, and his family hasn’t recovered, and may not ever recover, from his untimely death.

According to latest figures there’s been a 22% increase in knife crime in the past twelve months in the UK. The number of offences registered are the highest since comparable records started in 2010. In Croydon alone, there were 683 crimes involving knives from 1st April 2016 to 31st March 2017. That’s more than a 100% increase from the previous year – statistics which are deeply concerning for our community. And, following the shock of Jermaine’s death, the situation hasn’t improved.

The increase in knife crime can be partially attributed to a decline in the number of police officers on our streets and a cut in youth services, both of which are the trickle-down effect of decisions made by central government. A changing drugs market, poverty, mental health, social media and school exclusions are also contributing factors, but what can be done to stop it from happening?

What we really need are long-term solutions to the epidemic of knife crime

Knife crime and youth violence has now become such an epidemic that the Home Office, London Mayor and Croydon Council have all recently announced funding to help communities to work with young people and to prevent them from being drawn into knife crime. But what we really need are long-term solutions.

It’s been good to see our Croydon Central MP, Sarah Jones, call for youth violence to be treated as a public health issue, which is key to its prevention. In the meantime, how do we support these long-term solutions from where we are in Croydon?

A great way to start is through grass-roots initiatives. In Thornton Heath, we’ve been coming together as a community to take action. Local residents don’t want to see their neighbours suffer the same trauma as Jermaine’s family. We want to prevent it from happening to anyone else, in Thornton Heath and beyond. That’s why, in a collaborative, community-led initiative, the first Thornton Heath Youth Open Day has been created, bringing together the people who can shape change locally.

The Thornton Heath Youth Open Day is a local response to what’s happening in our community

Designed to give young people and their families the opportunity to learn about the activities and support available to youth in the local area, the Thornton Heath Youth Open Day is a local response to what’s happening in our community. Taking place from 11am to 3pm on Saturday 26th May at St Paul’s Church (CR7 8NB), the Thornton Heath Youth Open Day is a chance for the young people of Thornton Heath (and their families) to meet with local youth group leaders. Whether it’s sport, music, art or drama that they’re interested in, there will be the opportunity to find out more about some of the incredible services on offer to them. There will also be counsellors, mentors and other community leaders who can help young people in the area to take a positive step towards making a stand against knife crime. It’s also a great time to meet other people (young and old) in Thornton Heath who are also anxious about youth violence and who want to make a change by contributing their ideas towards creating a locally led plan for the future.

We will also involve everyone attending in shaping a six-month plan to tackle youth violence in Thornton Heath. The aim is that this plan will then be shared with the organisations that can help fund and support our ideas, which includes Croydon Council and Croydon’s Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), the body responsible for public health, including knife-crime prevention.

If we can share our ideas and connect these dots we can then work towards implementing a long-term plan with a strategic focus, enabling the coordination between services and agencies. This means a collaborative approach towards tackling youth crime between the police, schools, youth clubs, healthcare professionals and employers. This would be further supported by ensuring accessibility to essential services. If we take this step we can prevent our young people from being drawn into crime – the ideal, long-term solution that we’d all like to see. However, we can’t make this happen without you, so come and have your say and be part of the bigger picture. Make a difference, start the change and meet your neighbours. Sign up for free here for your place at the Thornton Heath Youth Open Day.

Jamie Audsley

Jamie Audsley

Jamie Audsley is a local Labour Councillor, representing Bensham Manor Ward (Thornton Heath area). His career has focused on education with roles in youth work, teaching in Croydon, publishing and community organising.

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  • Anne Giles

    Excellent article!