Comment: More still needs to be done on youth knife crime

Amid all the headlines on the cost of living crisis, another continues to develop in large parts of the West Midlands.

Knives are now a part of the every day routine for some children. Where fists used to be used in fights and disputes, blades are now drawn.

It is easy to dismiss this problem as criminality, or nothing to do with our lives.

But it is happening amongst us, in respectable neighbourhoods. Murders of teenagers have happened in perfectly respectable streets where most of us feel perfectly safe to walk, day or night. Most of us are unaware of the gang culture in our community, other than perhaps the odd bit of graffiti. That is why we are so shocked when a teenager is stabbed for being in the wrong part of town.

Knife crime has soared in the last five years. In a single year, almost 380 under-18s have been involved in knife crime and 800 under-16s have either been hurt or threatened.

Don’t think that your child is not affected by this. They may not be part of a gang themselves, but the chances are they know people who are. And these are often children from respectable backgrounds who get caught up in a culture and end up being sucked into a situation that can escalate out of control.

Police are aware of the problem. Patrols have increased at trouble spots like Wolverhampton Bus Station. But pointedly, West Midlands Assistant Police and Crime Commissioner Tom McNeil mentions “government cuts to policing, early intervention, work in schools and youth services”.

Today an extra £2 million has been announced to tackle youth violence, with Wolverhampton to get half. It is a welcome investment but we need more.

Earlier this summer the Express & Star called for a summit on knife crime, bringing together agencies including police, politicians, youth workers and school leaders. It should be a very public event, where concerns can be raised and possible solutions thrashed out. Today we renew that call, if only to prove to the people of the West Midlands that this issue is being taken seriously.

And our politicians should take this on board as a priority. This needs sustained funding over the long term. Youth work across our region has been decimated in the last decade or so. Youth centres that dotted our neighbourhoods have gone, outreach work diminished.

Properly funded preventative work, coupled with tough sentences for perpetrators, is just a first step towards preventing further tragedies on our streets.

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