caroline selman

Caroline Selman stressed knife crime was declining in Hackney, despite Londonwide increases

Cracking down on knife crime is a “massive priority” for the council, its community safety chief has asserted after the latest in a string of violent attacks.

Councillor Caroline Selman, who is in charge of crime prevention, told the Hackney Citizen it was “sobering” to read about what she called “a cluster of incidents which aren’t necessarily related”.

And though she admitted gang activity was part of the picture, she stressed the latest stats showed knife crime in Hackney was now falling overall.

She spoke as officers from the council’s enforcement team joined forces with police to “sweep” for blades on an estate near Hackney Downs.

They recovered several potentially lethal weapons, including knives, during searches of drains, undergrowth and other potential hiding places.

“It [tackling knife crime] has been a council priority for nine years, and it continues to be something that is a massive priority for us,” Cllr Selman said.

On Sunday a man in his 30s was found with stab wounds in Kingsland High Street in the early hours.

There was reportedly yet another stabbing in Harrowgate Road, Homerton, last night just after 6pm.

A spokesman for New Scotland Yard said: “Officers and the London Ambulance Service attended the scene and found a man in his 20s with a number of stab wounds. He was taken to an East London hospital where he remains with life threatening injuries.

“At this early stage detectives believe that the victim was chased by a number of individuals before being stabbed. They made off from the scene shortly afterwards.”

weapons sweep police with knives

Police with some of the knives found during the weapons sweep near Hackney Downs

There have been other similar incidents this month alone, and in the weeks leading up to Christmas several people were stabbed – prompting concerns about heightened gang conflict.

Cllr Selman said: “The context is that it’s going down, but every time there is an incident like that [the one on Sunday], that is something that just reaffirms the fact that it should be a priority and it should be something we are taking incredibly seriously.”

At a council meeting tomorrow deputy mayor Anntoinette Bramble will answer a question about what interventions are being offered to those who carry out stabbings as well as to victims and witnesses.

Kelly Reid from The Crib, an initiative that promotes awareness of gun and knife crime, has previously suggested that increasing the volume of people being stopped and searched by police could help save lives.

“In the last three and a half years, at the same time as stop and search has been reduced, knife crime has gone up,” she said late last year.

Knife crime in London as a whole is rising.

Cllr Selman said: “There’s been an increase in London. In Hackney there has been a cluster of incidents recently, but the overall trend is a decrease. I think in the last year knife crime has fallen by 7.6 per cent.

weapons sweep police with knives

Council wardens prepare to scour the undergrowth for weapons

“In terms of the link to stop and search, it’s in terms of about how that’s used, rather than the volume. It’s how you’re using it, so are you using it in a targeted way, is it led by evidence and is it intelligence led – as well as the quality of the interaction.”

In 2014, Theresa May, then Home Secretary, outlined reforms of stop and search powers to make them more “targeted” after saying more than a million street searches had been carried out possibly illegally by police in England and Wales in the previous year.

But Met insiders and some Conservative politicians such as Gareth Bacon of the London Assembly have warned officers now face too many barriers to searching suspects, meaning catching criminals who carry blades has in practice become more challenging.

After the stop and search changes were brought in, Chris Hobbs, a retired Met officer, said: “If I were a gang member I would think I’d stand a much better chance of getting away with carrying a knife on the streets of London now.”

Community safety warden on weapons sweep

A council worker shines a torch into a drain cover as part of the search

Cllr Selman defended the changes, however, saying they were made owing to “quite legitimate reasons”.

She said: “Things aren’t helped if you have a loss of confidence in the same community you’re meant to be policing.

“Stop and search obviously still happens within the borough. It’s more about looking at whether it is actually being effective when it’s being used – whether it’s being used in the right way, rather than just the pure volume of it.”

Currently, around 30 per cent of searches carried out in Hackney recover knives, Cllr Selman said.

Disrupting criminal activity via weapons sweeps like today’s, as well as carrying out preventative youth work and stopping underage sales of knives, are among the tactics being deployed by the Town Hall to try and protect young people.

Police

Police discuss what weapons have been found

There is also a special gangs unit in Hackney in which police, probation and support officers work in tandem.

The Hackney Citizen has written to the Metropolitan Police to request to hear from the borough commander, Chief Supt Simon Laurence, about what is being done to try and curb knife crime locally.

A spokesperson for the Met yesterday confirmed our request for an interview had been logged and was being considered.

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