Students had the opportunity to voice their concerns about knife crime and youth services to a panel of experts during a debate at City and Islington College (CANDI).
Questions were put to representatives from the Metropolitan Police, The Ben Kinsella Trust, Godwin Lawson Foundation, StreetDoctors and IOTC Solutions on 14 June.
The discussion covered racism and under-representation in the Met, tackling violent crime and prevention, stop and search, exploitation and safeguarding, community projects for young people and the need for investment in youth services.
Inspector Ross Hickman, who heads up the Met’s Youth Engagement Team in Islington, said improvements were being made to stop and search following an independent review.
He said: “Stop and search in London is always criticised that it is not used in the right way and people are racially targeted.
“We continue to work with people about how we use stop and search, to make sure we are using it correctly. It’s a real policing power, we wouldn’t be protecting you if we didn’t use it, but I do accept some of the criticism it has had.
“I don’t believe that the Met is institutionally racist, but I absolutely get the fear in London that we are using it [stop and search] in that context,” he said.
Dr Angela Herbert MBE, who runs coaching and mentoring company IOTC Solutions and is also Chair of the Violent Crime Prevention Board, called for more transparency from the Met.
She said: “This is about developing and creating credibility of the police. Once there is credibility, then we can start building trust. When you are on the receiving side of policing, and it’s not done correctly, it causes problems and has a negative impact.”
Dr Herbert, who is also a governor of Capital City College Group (CCCG), which includes CANDI, warned that many young people caught with knives and end up in custody are often the exploited victims of organised crime.
This was echoed by Frances Breeveld, Communications and Policy Officer at StreetDoctors, a national charity that teaches lifesaving skills to young people to keep themselves and others safe.
She called for more investment in youth services and the need for early intervention to prevent youth crime and protect young people.
“A lot of the problems caused are because there aren’t safe spaces for young people, especially after school. I was talking to a police officer who said 4pm was when they had the most violent incidents,” she said.
“We hear from young people all the time about how important after school clubs and youth clubs are and how important good youth workers are, as role models, trusted people who are able to support and guide.”
Patrick Green, CEO of The Ben Kinsella Trust, a charity which campaigns to prevent knife crime, said successive governments had failed to tackle knife crime.
He said: “If we want to stop youth violence and knife crime and build a better future, we have to start by investing in young people.
“That starts with putting in services and recreational activities for young people, and it starts by also giving young people a pathway into meaningful employment, which is critical for social change and mobility. There’s a lot that needs to be done.”
Yvonne Godwin, CEO and founder of the Godwin Lawson Foundation, which aims to reduce knife crime and encourage young people to fulfil their potential, called for police to show more “cultural awareness and empathy” in the communities they serve.
She spoke about a programme being run at CANDI’s sister college, the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London (CONEL), to encourage young people to get involved in their community by befriending and being a role model to children in schools.
Sergeant Tony Quinn said the Met had been working with London boroughs on schemes such as Safe Havens, where public places like shops and cafés provide refuge and support for people in danger.
He added that force was also working with young people on crime prevention through role-playing sessions and has also funded a boxing club at Sobell Leisure Centre in Islington.
Insp Hickman said the Mayor of London’s office has promised an additional £25 million to keep streets safer, including tackling violence against women and youth violence.
“There’s always so much more that we can be doing but with Government funding there’s always a struggle as there is often not enough to go around,” he said.
“What is key is that we continue to work together with you to make sure we’re doing the right thing.”
CANDI offers a wide range of enrichment activities throughout each academic year including talks, workshops, careers fairs, and clubs and societies.
Find out more about Student Life here.