EastLondonLines recently reported that the number of young victims of knife crime in Lewisham has risen by 63 per cent since 2008, whereas it had only gone up by four per cent in Hackney.
New information suggests that the discrepancy is due, not to an increase in crime, but to a multi-agency intervention project, run initially by Victim Support, which has increased the number of people reporting attacks to the police.
Javed Khan, Chief Executive of Victim Support, told EastLondonLines: “There was a lot of evidence across London that the majority of perpetrators of serious youth violence and those who committed homicide had [themselves] been victimised for four or five years before they committed the crime.
“We were finding that these young people had not reported their crime in the first instance. They were victims of grievous bodily harm, they went to the local accident and emergency, got stitched up or bandaged and went back home but didn’t report the crime.
“We are talking about some of the housing estates in Lewisham, Hackney, Newham, Lambeth and so on. The analysis was suggesting that they did not report the crime for a number of reasons. One, they may not have trusted the police. Two, they lived in an area where reporting crimes is not the done thing – you do not snitch – it makes you more vulnerable. Or three, they just didn’t know what support services were out there for them.
“So we then commissioned the project in Lewisham as a multi-agency project to see what difference a youth advocacy programme could make”, Khan added.
We were provided with funding that enabled the borough to hire a youth advocate whose sole job it was to work with victims and act as a key point of contact for them.
Khan said: “Over the period of that pilot, the rate of reporting increased because young people were supported with a dedicated worker, who had more confidence to report their crime to the police and more confidence to be a witness to the crime and give evidence.. Now that could have a direct correlation with the statistics you are reporting.
“It also led to an increase in confidence among young people in the support agencies, like the police, the local council, youth services and all the other support agencies out there.”
He added that another outcome of the pilot scheme was that the instances of repeat vicitimisation went down dramatically. During the four-month programme, reporting rates went up because young people had more confidence and support.
Although Victim Support is not actively involved in the scheme any more, Lewisham Council is still running it.
Another point highlighted by Khan was the services that provide places to report hate crime. He said: “Over the last few years, local community safety partnerships had a really enormous impact on the levels of reporting of hate crime and the figures have shot through the roof.
“Now on the one hand, you could say particular areas are really poor and there is a lot of hate crime going on, but on the other, you could say that because people have focused the reporting mechanisms, the figures have gone up.”
In Lewisham, there are 16 places where people can report hate crime anonymously. Lewisham Council also has an incident form where hate crimes can be reported online.
Comparing this to Hackney, where young knife crime victims only rose by four per cent, there are fewer places where people can report hate crime, with the one main place to do so being through a local neighbourhood housing office.
A pilot scheme was also run in Hackney which focused on information sharing and early intervention. The programme involved gathering information on children and families and assessing the best course of action to prevent young people becoming more at risk of violence.
Hackney Council was not able to comment on scheme, nor was it able to confirm if it is still being run.