POLITICS
04/01/2018 15:11 GMT

Labour MP Sarah Jones: Government Must Treat Knife Crime As Public Health Issue

Ministers urged to shift their focus after four deaths in two days.

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The government must treat knife crime as a public health issue if it wants to reduce the number of deaths and injuries, according to a Labour MP.

Sarah Jones, who chairs an All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on the issue, says stabbing incidents have reached epidemic proportions following the deaths of four young men in London at the turn of the year. 

The new Croydon Central MP, who defeated former housing minister Gavin Barwell in last year’s snap general election, has called on the government to take a different approach to tackling the problem.

“We need to recognise that knife crime must be treated as an epidemic rather than just a Home Office or justice issue, like it has been in some parts of America and in Scotland,” she told HuffPost UK.

“Glasgow used to be the murder capital of Europe, until it was recognised as a public health issue and tackled in a different way.

Sarah Jones MP
Croydon Central MP Sarah Jones

“The focus shifted more to interventions with children and young people at the point they begin to become involved in crime, with more intensive work being done to look at what prevents violence occurring in the first place.

“If you take the issue away from just the Home Office, and make it a broader focus, then you can be more creative in the ways to solve it.”

The APPG on knife crime will gather later this month for the first of a series of meetings in 2018, which will focus on the role of the health, education and criminal justice systems in bringing down the number of violent incidents.

The first meeting will focus on the role of social media, with senior figures from several platforms invited to speak.

Jones added: “We are very concerned about the quantity of violent material and gang goading that goes online, with videos not being taken down when they should be.

“We also have concerns that social media fuels the speed at which gangs can fight - allowing them to find out where others are more qucikly and organise criminal activity.

“And while I think social media companies are beginning to act on things like terrorism, extremism and hate crime, they have not acted with enough speed on the presence of violent imagery online.

“Knife crime has increased so much over the last year or so, and one of the factors is definitely social media.”

CHRIS J RATCLIFFE via Getty Images
London mayor Sadiq Khan

Twitter and Facebook have both pledged to clamp down on violent and abusive content posted on their platforms, promising a “robust” response to complaints.

London mayor Sadiq Khan has called for increased police funding to tackle knife crime in the capital.

He told LBC on Thursday: “It’s catastrophic for these families. I speak to the bereaved families all the time and the knife crime plan we published last summer was as a result of speaking to bereaved families, experts, ex members of gangs, specialists, Ofsted and many others.

“That knife crime plan is doing its job. In November and December, there were record numbers of arrests made, a third of which were stop and search, 350 weapons seized.”

Last month, the government closed a consultation into proposed changes in legislation which could see laws around offensive weapons toughened up.