Tower Hamlets Council hosts violent crime summit to discuss solutions to rising youth violence

Councillor Asma Begum led a panel discussion with Sister Christine Frost, Diane Peters from Streets of Growth, Eleanor Hunnigan from the Rapid Response Team, Holal Ahmed from Spotlight and Rukon Hassan from Osmani. Picture: Rhiannon Long

Mayor of Tower Hamlets, John Biggs, was joined by charity bosses, police officers and community groups at a violent crime summit today.

Mayor John Biggs opened the summit with his speech on the importance of groups working together in a multi-agency approach. Picture: Rhiannon Long

John Biggs emphasised the importance of groups working collaboratively, using £228,000 given to projects in the borough by the Mayor of London to tackle youth violence.

He said: “Clearly we need our police, council, schools and youth services to work effectively, but what we need is a multi-agency approach. We don’t just need soundbites.

“You can come to an event like this and just talk about the problems, but we need to recognise the greater things as well. We’re bound to talk about behaviours and risks to young people, but our young people are a pretty good thing in our community. We need to nurture and respect them.”

Violent crime is up 4.3 per cent in Tower Hamlets since last year, according to divisional director for community safety, Ann Corbett, who spoke after the mayor.

Divisional director for community safety, Ann Corbett, gave an overview of the violent crime landscape in Tower Hamlets. Picture: Rhiannon Long

Over the last three years, she said knife crime in the borough has increased by more than a quarter, and in the last residents’ survey, knife crime overtook affordable housing as the top concern for the first time.

“We have to look at the drivers of crime,” she said.
“Young people have said to us that they carry knives out of the belief that it offers protection.

“We must ask, how do we meaningfully engage the voices of young people and credibly offer them an alternative to gang culture?”

Open drug markets, domestic abuse, street robberies and social media were all cited as drivers of violence.

Ms Corbett gave an example of what young people in the borough had to say about police and crime in Tower Hamlets. Picture: Rhiannon Long

The summit also heard from Wayne George from the Rapid Response Team, and Gwenton Sloley, a Home Office advisor, who discussed the importance of speaking directly to at risk young people.

“It’s not just drugs that develop the problems of this borough, addiction drives them as well,” Mr Sloley said.

“One drugs phone line can earn a dealer £21,000 in a week. When we go into communities and tell young people to change their ways, we need to offer them something that can replace that level of excitement.

“Unless we’re in their spaces and understanding their choices, we’re not going to be able to reach them.”

Mr George, who showed a film he’d made discussing crime with young people in the borough, said: “What we really need to do is go back into the community and speak to them. That’s all I did – I grabbed a camera and went up to them and spoke. But I was able to do that because they knew who I was.

“There’s not one response or one answer. It’s about a collaborative way of working, which includes involving young people.”

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