Page last updated at 10:40 GMT, Wednesday, 22 April 2009 11:40 UK

Police 'cannot win knife crime war'

By Elaine Okyere
BBC News, London

A man holding a knife
More than 4,300 knives have been taken off the streets since May 2008

Last year nearly 30 teenagers died violently in London - this year to date there have been five fatal stabbings.

Metropolitan Police statistics show numbers are falling but does this mean knife crime is becoming a problem of the past?

Richard Garside, director of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies at King's College London, does not believe the battle is over.

"I do not think this is a war the police can win," he said. "The figures are not completely indicative of what is going on."

His warning came after Met Police figures showed knife crime had fallen 13% in the last year.

"Kid gloves"

From February 2007 to January 2008 there were 11,963 offences involving knives in London compared to 10,330 for the same period in 2008 to 2009.

One victim was semi-professional footballer Oliver Kingonzila who was stabbed last September during an attack outside a nightclub.

On Tuesday at the Old Bailey Triston Burke, 19, of Croydon, south London, pleaded guilty to his murder.

Because no-one is dying, no-one seems to be doing anything
Mother, Michelle Jeacock

Despite the drop in recorded offences, experts and campaigners feel more work needs to be done.

Michelle Jeacock, of south London, has first-hand experience of the effects of knife crime.

Her 16-year-old son Julian Knight died when he was stabbed in the neck in Abbey Wood, south-east London. His killer was later jailed for life for murder in 2007.

She believes the extent of knife crime in the capital is being "played down" and the problem is being treated with "kid gloves".

She said: "Recently there have been stabbings in my area but they haven't even made the local paper. Because no-one is dying, no-one seems to be doing anything.

"I have got a 14-year-old son and I am worried when he goes out.

"Five years ago it wasn't a worry, but even before my son died it became a problem. We need to send out a clearer message."

Hospital admissions

Figures from the NHS paint a different picture to the Met's statistics.

Last month it was revealed there had been an 120% rise in the number of children admitted to London hospitals with knife injuries.

The statistics showed there were 34 emergency hospital admissions of youngsters under 16 with stab wounds in 2003/04 which rose to 75 in 2007/8.

Last July Shakilus Townsend, 16, died in hospital after he was beaten and stabbed in Thornton Heath, south London.

On Tuesday a court heard how the teenager was allegedly lured by a girl to a cul-de-sac where he was attacked by a gang.

Another victim Yasin Abdirahman, 22, died after he was attacked with sticks, broken bottles and knives in September 2007.

Julian Knight
Michelle Jeacock's son Julian was killed in 2006

Ten men were convicted at the Old Bailey of Mr Abdirahman's murder.

Since last May more than 4,300 knives have been seized by police and 7,500 people arrested.

The crackdown was part of Operation Blunt 2 in which metal detectors were used to deter people carrying knives.

However Mr Garside, at King's College, believes the efforts of police have not had a real impact on knife crime.

He said: "There are young people who do experience violence and do not report it. Our research shows there is no evidence to show police activity had any impact on knife crime."

He also said that social economic factors played a significant role in whether people became stabbing victims.

A spokesman for the Met said the force "constantly reviewed" its strategy and there were rolling initiatives" in place to combat stabbings.

He said: "There are always crimes that go unreported to the police and there is no evidence that underreporting has increased."

Meanwhile Lyn Costello, chair of the charity Mothers against Murder and Aggression (MAMAA), based in north-west London, believes young people's attitudes are changing.

She said: "We go into schools and 90% of young people know a victim of knife crime, they are frightened and are looking at ways to stop this."

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