Page last updated at 14:38 GMT, Monday, 17 November 2008

Knife crime battle 'not working'

Keith Vaz
Keith Vaz is worried current efforts to tackle knife crime are failing

Efforts to tackle knife crime are "clearly not working", the chairman of the home affairs committee has warned.

Labour MP Keith Vaz said the weekend stabbings at a London music event underlined the "urgent" need to better understand the causes of knife crime.

He said 22 teenagers had been killed with a knife in London this year.

The Home Office says 2m invested in 10 areas since June is paying off, with 2,200 knives seized through stop and search operations.

Mr Vaz spoke out at the start of a cross-party knife crime inquiry, which it is hoped will find "effective responses" to the problem.

He said: "It is clearly not being dealt with at the moment with the legitimate, appropriate political solutions. They are clearly not working.

"We want to take it beyond a party political discussion to really gain some important facts and figures to go into the community to find the perpetrators - and also establish how this matter should be dealt with."

He said the committee will focus on identifying "effective responses", by improving the availability of data and offender profiles.

Knife crime worsening say MPs

Mr Vaz was speaking after a 27-year-old man was stabbed on Saturday night at the sixth annual Urban Music Awards in south London.

The event at the O2 arena in Greenwich was halted after 90 minutes as the victim was taken to hospital with "serious but stable injuries".

A 21-year-old man was arrested and bailed in connection with the offence, a Scotland Yard spokesman said.

When asked if the problem was out of control, Mr Vaz replied: "An event hosting several thousand people was suddenly cancelled because of the fact that a few people had knives and were using them - this is a cause for major concern. That is why it is important that we are holding this inquiry."

Also speaking at the launch of the inquiry in Stockwell, south London, was Liberal Democrat MP Simon Hughes who said there had been a "dramatic shift" in the culture of knife crime.

A protest against knife crime in London in September 2008
Young people are helping to tackle the problem in their peer group

He said: "Knives were originally taken because they were seen as cool. Then they were taken because young people thought they were safe.

"But now what most people are doing is taking them because of fear. There has been a shift - we need people to realise that having them makes you much more likely to be a victim."

Mr Hughes called for parents to educate their children better "not just at the ages of 13 or 14".

He added: "If you do not start teaching them, five, six, seven, I can assure you that it will not work at 13 or 14."

At the start of November a government campaign was launched which will feature young people's faces on billboards across England and Wales.

Teenagers are asked submit a picture of themselves holding the message "I say no to knives".

Posters in knife crime hotspots will be updated with supporters' pictures, as part of the 3m drive.

Young people can submit photographs to the "It Doesn't Have to Happen" page on the Bebo social networking website.

England footballers David Beckham, Rio Ferdinand and David James helped launch the It Doesn't Have to Happen campaign in August.

Real injuries

The government's anti-knife advertising drive had got under way in May, when images of real injuries inflicted by knives were published in internet advertisements.

A Home Office spokesman said: "We are committed to tackling knife crime and getting knives off our streets.

"Since June we have invested 2 million in targeted action in 10 police force areas under the Tackling Knives Action Programme.

"Already this is delivering results - over 2,200 knives have been seized following targeted stop and search operations, and courts are getting tougher with offenders."

Shadow home secretary Dominic Grieve said: "Keith Vaz has stated the obvious but the government remain in denial about the scourge of knife crime on our streets."

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