Youth knife crime surges in Lewisham

Pic: Borkazoid on Flickr

Knife crime among young people in Lewisham has increased by 63 per cent since 2008, Metropolitan Police figures have revealed.

Statistics show that the average rise in violent knife attacks on young people aged between 13 and 24 across London during this period was 29 per cent. Tower Hamlets saw an increase of 27.5 per cent, Croydon rose by 18 per cent and in Hackney there was a four per cent hike respectively.

The table below shows the number of young people who have been victims of knife crime over the last four financial years in ELL boroughs.

Borough 2007/08 2008/09 2009/10 2010/11
Croydon 255 264 298 301
Hackney 240 282 248 249
Lewisham 225 240 266 366
Tower Hamlets 200 204 211 255


Lewisham’s surrounding boroughs – Lambeth and Southwark – had a similar increase in the number of victims. In 2007/2008, there were 250 incidents in Lambeth, which rose to 407 in 2010/2011, representing a 63 per cent increase. Southwark rose from 306 to 523, an increase of 71 per cent. The only borough that had a larger increase was Merton, which rose by 85 per cent.

The figures come against the backdrop of proposed changes to sentencing laws, recommending mandatory custodial sentences for 16 and 17-year-olds found guilty of threatening someone with a knife.

Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke said the new law will send a “clear message about the seriousness of juvenile knife crime”. Under the proposals young people found guilty of ‘aggravated knife possession’ will serve a four-month detention and be subject to ‘training orders’.

Clarke also said that the new laws will give victims of crime a “clearer understanding” of how long perpetrators will actually serve in prison.

Voicing her support for the new law, Heidi Alexander, MP for Lewisham East said: “I think the message that needs to be sent to young people is that if you carry a knife there will be consequences, so I do welcome the idea of mandatory sentences for 16 and 17-year-olds. We’ve got to get this message out there; you cannot get away with carrying a knife.”

As well as mandatory custodial sentences for 16 and 17-year-olds, the bill also includes a proposal for six-month jail terms for adults convicted of aggravated knife possession.

Although in agreement with proposals for stiffer sentences, Alexander voiced doubts over the new legislation’s ability to fully tackle the problem of youth knife crime, citing cuts to police services as an obstacle to bucking the rising trend.

She said: “It’s all very well talking about sentences, but sentences can only kick in if young people are arrested for threatening people with a knife.”

“The government is making huge cuts to the number of police on our streets. In places like Lewisham, there will be a reduction in the number of Safer Neighbourhood Team Sergeants. These are the police who know their communities really well and know where trouble is going to kick off.”

The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill is now awaiting a second reading in the House of Lords. It will then pass to the committee stage when amendments to the bill will be made before reaching the statute book.

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