|Who's To Blame For Rising Knife Crime in Ealing?|
Former drug dealer says youth service cuts main reason for surge
There was £400 worth of marijuana on the bed when a knock came at Alan Maphosa’s front door.
He remembers the paralysing fear when, at 19 years old, he found two police officers on his doorstep. The police weren’t there for him. They weren’t even there for his friend, who had been helping prepare the drug for sale. They were looking for someone who lived upstairs.
Mr Maphosa remembers it as the moment he left behind the drugs, and the crowd and violence that came with them. He was able to do it, he says, because at that time in 2011, a youth service he was involved with were able to hire him for half a dozen shifts a week. It paid just enough to get by on, but more importantly it provided structure and a positive environment a world away from the existence he and his friends were living. He recalls homes being raided, fights, and seeing mates slip from dealing a little weed at house parties to peddling class-A drugs and carrying knives.
He said: “Seeing them surviving fights and raids and stuff, it was getting to the point where I didn’t want to look over my shoulder, working 2am at night trying to meet customers.”
Fast forward to today, and Mr Maphosa is a full-time youth worker. He said he sees kids at every session he runs – regardless of if they were five or 17 – benefitted from even the short periods of structure, inclusion, and kindness.
He said, “Even though my journey took really long, I didn’t have to deal with these kind of headaches. I didn’t have to worry about the police spotting me or recognising me from the road at night.
“I could walk freely in public without thinking people were judging me.”
The lessons from his experience mean he has a unique insight into the effect caused by massive falls in youth service funding. Recent figures reveal some areas of West London have lost the equivalent of 88% of their funding since 2010, while knife crime had doubled in his local boroughs in three years. The two, as far as Mr Maphosa is concerned, go hand in hand.
In Ealing, knife crime has increased by a third in three years going from 399 instances in 2015/2016 to 530 in 2018/19 according to figures procured by the South West London Assembly Conservatives.
Knife crime with injury has remained the same, sitting at 176 cases, while instances involving robbery had fallen by 24% to only 13 cases in 2018/19.
In Hillingdon, knife crime has almost doubled, going from 159 cases in 2015/2016 to 312 in 2018/19. Knife crime with injury in Hillingdon has increased by a similar proportion, leaping from 61 cases three years ago to 111 now. Perhaps more worryingly, knife crime including injury and robbery had increased five-fold, hitting 18 cases in the 2018/19.
Finally, Hounslow has seen a 52% increase in knife crime since 2015, reaching 370 in the 2018/19 year. Knife crime with injury, and knife crime with injury and robbery had increased by 13% and 45% respectively, totalling 134 instances in the 2018/19 year.
According to Labour Party figures, the total spend on youth services per person in Hounslow was £145 back in 2010. That figure has plummeted to £18 per person today. The neighbouring boroughs of Ealing and Hillingdon haven’t fared much better, slipping from £98 to £23 and £55 to £21 respectively.
The youth cuts and the rise in knife crime have happened under a Conservative Government. However, Conservative South West London Assembly member Tony Arbour places the blame for the rise in knife crime at the feet of the Mayor, Sadiq Khan.
He said, “Only recently we learnt that Sadiq Khan’s Violence Reduction Unit – a key part of his crime reduction plan – won’t even cover the whole of London.
“On top of this, he has consistently splurged millions on City Hall bureaucrats, PR and culture instead of giving the police the resources they need.”
Mr Arbour said the Conservatives had put forward a fully-costed plan for how the Mayor could use the money to invest in nearly 1,400 new police officers.
A spokeswoman for the Mayor responded by pointing out violent crime has increased in London and right across the country since 2010 due to “crippling” government cuts.
She said, “Sadiq is leading from the front by funding a team of 300 officers that are targeting offenders, investing £45 million in projects to provide better opportunities for young people and establishing England’s first Violence Reduction Unit to tackle the underlying causes of violent crime.
“But he does not have the resources or powers to do this alone and that’s why the Government must reverse their repeated cuts.”
Police forces in West London have shrunk under the Conservative Government. Superintendent Mike Payne, who works at the HQ of the Western Area Basic Command Unit, confirmed as much at a Hounslow Council Scrutiny Committee meeting, although he couldn’t say how many.
Member of Parliament for Ealing Central and Acton Rupa Huq described Mr Arbour’s words as a “typical Tory attack line.”
She said: “It’s a standard Tory line to blame it on Sadiq Khan when they’re the people holding the purse strings.”
“In Ealing alone, we’ve lost 300 officers lost since the Conservatives came to power in 2010.”
Nationally, the police force has lost 21,000 officers in the same period, Ms Huq said.
She also pointed to National Audit Office estimates that police funding had fallen by 19% between 2010-2019, with inflation taken into account, despite Theresa May’s recent claim the government were pouring an extra £1billion into the police.
For Alan Maphosa, it shouldn’t all come down to money, but youth cuts in particular were a false economy, because they left the vulnerable behind. Youth would get into trouble, drop out of school, and then it became harder and more expensive to get them back on track.
“Young people think some of the things they do are justified – because if people are saying they’re not worth it, anything they do to get through their situations is worth it for them.”
Ged Cann - Local Democracy Reporter
May 15, 2019