Serious Violence

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:27 pm on 15th May 2019.

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Photo of Joan Ryan Joan Ryan Independent, Enfield North 5:27 pm, 15th May 2019

It is a pleasure to follow Vernon Coaker. I can only agree with the urgency that he injects into this debate and the focus that he brings to it. We hope to see exactly that focus from Government.

I want to read to the House an email I received that is very similar to emails I get on a very regular basis. It is from the north area basic command unit, Haringey and Enfield. It says:

“Dear Partner,

Please find details of a stabbing which occurred about 1347h on Tuesday 14 MAY 2019.

Venue: Durants Park, HERTFORD ROAD, ENFIELD, MIDDLESEX, EN3 5AJ

Victim: Male 17 years

Call received from the ambulance service, that a man had been stabbed. Victim was found with stab wound to his upper left leg and was conscious. He was taken to RLH”—

Royal London Hospital.

The next information usually says one of four things: if he is fortunate, his injuries are declared non-life-threatening; his injuries are life-changing; he is critical; or his injuries have proved fatal. I receive that email regularly, and often the victim is younger than 17 years of age. I very rarely received emails like that before a couple of years age.

Many of my constituents tell me how worried they are about the rise in serious violent crime in Enfield. On Saturday morning, I held a community meeting on Enfield Island Village that was very well attended because it was specifically about serious violent crime, and particularly youth crime. There is huge concern among people for not only their own safety but that of young people, who are lying stabbed or dead on our streets. They have very good reason to be concerned. Stabbings and shootings relating to drug dealing and county lines activity, as well as muggings and robberies, have seen violent crime in Enfield soar by more than 90% since 2010—yes, 90%. If I had said 10 years ago that that would be the case, people would have thought it was a massive exaggeration.

Last year, more than 20 violent crimes against the person were committed every day in the borough of Enfield. Enfield has the third highest level of serious youth violence in the capital, and we have a problem with gangs, county lines, knife crime and organised crime. I know from meeting the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Cressida Dick, that tackling serious violence in Enfield is a top priority for the police. We have seen the deployment of extra officers from the Met police’s violent crime taskforce and the Territorial Support Group to help make our streets safer, but frankly, if an area qualifies for deployment of police from those two groups, it has a very serious problem on its streets. We should not have to rely on those specialist services. We need visible neighbourhood policing at the heart of our communities, because the best way to cut crime is to have more bobbies on the beat.

The creation of safer neighbourhood teams helped to cut violent crime across the country by over 40%, but those invaluable teams are now much reduced and under existential threat because of this Government’s irresponsible decision to slash police budgets. Since the Government were elected in 2010, the Met police’s budget has been cut by £850 million. Despite the recent police funding settlement, the Met is still expected to make further savings of £263 million over the next four years, against the backdrop of rising crime. As we have heard, the National Crime Agency director has warned this week of the “staggering” scale of organised crime and lobbied Ministers for a doubling of the agency’s budget to tackle the threat. The staggering scale is no surprise to me or my constituents; I see it in these emails, we see it every day and we hear it from young people.

Politics and governing are always about choices and priorities. When the Government force such staggering cuts to the police budget and fail to invest in the frontline, they are making a clear choice and reducing the priority they place on keeping us safe. The wholesale restructuring of London’s policing and the merging of boroughs’ resources, as in Enfield and Haringey, is a direct consequence of those cuts. That would not have happened if the resources were there to do otherwise. How is Enfield expected to cope properly with the surge in violent crime when we have lost more than 240 uniformed officers from our streets in the past nine years? That is just one London borough.

Our police are doing the best they can under very difficult circumstances, but when they are spread so thinly, they can only do so much. Over recent months, we have seen shocking cases of schoolchildren in Enfield Town being mugged, including students from Enfield Grammar School and other local schools. The headteachers, the local police and the council are working hard to keep pupils safe, but parents are at their wits’ end. These are secondary schoolchildren, and parents feel the need to take them to school and bring them home to keep them safe. Groups of parents have started patrolling the area after school to protect their children and deter criminals. They should not feel they have to do that—it is not their job—but I pay tribute to them for taking this action to try to secure their children’s safety. They deserve to know that the police services will be there when they need them.

When Ministers respond to this point, will they desist from always pointing the finger of blame solely at the Mayor of London for a lack of resources? It is the Government who have shifted the burden of police funding from the Government grant to the council tax, hitting the poorest the hardest. To fight violent crime there is little choice but to increase the policing element of the council tax, but I am afraid this cannot fill the gap in funding that has been opened up by the Government’s cuts agenda. Better resourced policing will play a major part in tackling serious violence. The Government must provide more support for other services, too. Huge Government cuts to our local authority, health services, youth services and public health budgets are massively compounding the problem.

North Middlesex University Hospital is at the forefront of dealing with the fallout from serious violence. In 2018 alone, the hospital treated 1,457 victims of assaults, including stabbings and gunshot wounds. It has had to ramp up its security spend, installing more CCTV and hiring overnight security guards in its already busy A&E department. Every penny that is spent on these interventions is money diverted away from essential patient care.

Leading crime prevention charities such as Safer London and excellent projects such as the Godwin Lawson Foundation and the Jubilee centre are working in Enfield, alongside local schools, in providing early intervention programmes and mentoring schemes to educate and support young people. However, as we have already heard from the hon. Member for Gedling, these organisations are working on shoestring budgets, and they need funding and support to scale up and focus on their work, rather than continually having to go out with the begging bowl. It is the first responsibility of Government to protect and safeguard the lives of their citizens.

I want to pay tribute to Inspector Paul Dwyer and PC Mansbridge of Enfield and Haringey police, who work with our young people in the north area basic command unit of the Met. Recently, they organised a charity youth football tournament, with 200 young people taking part in seven-a-side matches all day long, and the day communicated an anti-knife crime message.

We are proud of our young people, but we are not giving them the chance they need. I hope that Ministers will think long and hard about the issues that have been raised today by me and so many colleagues. They need to make it a priority to tackle serious violence and put the funding of our police, councils and public services back on a sustainable footing. Over the past nine years, we have seen this Government’s policy put the safety of our communities at risk. Enfield residents have the right to feel safe and be safe in their homes and in their neighbourhoods, and to know that their children are safe inside and outside school and in their parks, and to know that they have good activities—with good adult role models looking after them—that they can take part in. That is what we need; it is not rocket science. We all know it, and we need this Government to step up.