Croydon reacts to spate of stabbings leading to knife arches in schools
Community figures have reacted to the spate of stabbings in Croydon which saw six attacks in eleven days.
Knife arches are being brought in to a number of the borough’s senior schools over the next few weeks as Croydon police look to crack down on the recent upturn in knife crime.
A 12-year-old , four teenagers and a 21-year-old have been knifed in five separate incidents in Croydon weeks. Police chiefs have admitted it has not been a "normal" two weeks for the borough which has actually seen an overall dip in knife crime over the past year.
Extra officers have been drafted in and more patrols in crime hotspot areas are taking place to help reassure residents who are concerned about the recent attacks.
Croydon Council also increased the amount of neighbourhood wardens and the street-based youth team was sent to the Parsons Mead area.
So far six people have been arrested and bailed in connection with some of the incidents and two teenagers have been charged and appeared in court in connection with the stabbing at the Whitgift Centre on January 14 which was the first of the attacks.
The second stabbing saw an 18-year-old stabbed after two groups clashed on Queens Road in Selhurst on January 20.
On the same day a 12-year-old was attacked at a Tesco on Windmill Road in an attempted robbery by a group of teens.
On Wednesday January 22 a 16-year-old was stabbed in the back in Parson’s Mead and on January 24 a 21-year-old was knifed in Woodville Road, Thornton Heath.
The first of the knife arches were brought in this week. Police have a schedule for when the articles, which they are not revealing, with more planned for the next couple of weeks and then more after that.
This is the first time a major operation involving knife arches has taken place across schools in ther borough for a number of years and is in response to the number of young people suspected to have carried out the attacks who are of school age.
Croydon Police said arches have previously been used sporadically in schools. They have also been deployed in other police operations such as Operation Big wing, which is a day of co-ordinated police activity.
Detective Superintendent Simon Messinger, who is leading Croydon Police's response to the stabbings, said police are reacting pro-actively to what he called "an unfortunate blip".
Home Office statistics show wounding offences committed by youths aged between 10 and 19 dropped from 58 to 38 in the financial year 2010-11 to the year 2012-13.
In a briefing on Friday DS Messinger said knife crime continues to be a serious issue and "given an inch" the borough could have been dealing with deaths rather than serious injuries.
He said: "Give it another inch on another part of the body and homicide command could be investigating and we know these are the issues around knife crime.
"One inch one way or one inch another and you are dealing with something completely different.
"We do a lot of work with schools and we make sure that headteachers are thoroughly involved and my DCIs are having interaction with them at the moment.
"We put everything in we can to make sure Croydon is as safe as it can be. We have got people in in relation to the stabbings, we are not being idle. Whether it is kicking doors down or going into schools, if we have a lead we will follow it up and we will find them."
An "unfortunate blip" or a worsening problem? Key figures in the fight against knife crime speak out in reaction to the recent spate of stabbings in Croydon.
Tracey Ford, who runs the JAGs Foundation in Croydon, lost her son James in 2007 after he was shot in Streatham.
Ms Ford now offers bereavement support to families and friends affected by youth murder and said it was vital young people think of the consequences if they carry knives.
She said: "More and more young people are carrying a weapon and it has got to a level where 12-year-olds are being stabbed. That is horrific.
"It is important for these young think about what the families go through. It is hard to for parents to think their children are leaving and might not return. It is worrying as these kids are not thinking about the consequences."
David Clark, head teacher of Archbishop Lanfranc Secondary School, said one of his pupils was a victim in the recent attacks.
He said support is given both from outside organisations and the school’s support staff to help those involved.
Mr Clark said: "We do not see weapons in school but our pupils are sometimes victims of knife crime or of crimes where knives are used as a threat, real or otherwise.
"Staying safe is an important strand of our PSHE programme and the danger of any involvement with weapons is addressed through this as well as input from other organisations."
Eliza Rebeiro, founder of Lives Not Knives, does a lot of work in schools to discourage young people from getting involved in knife crime.
She set up the group after losing two friends after they were stabbed and witnessing other attacks.
Miss Rebeiro said: "A lot of it has been played down in recent times as some of the incidents have not happened in the town centre.
"I guess it shows that knife crime is happening and people are having to see it in areas where people are shopping and things like that to see that the problem has not gone away.
"You cannot put people in boxes, it is up to the person what they want to do. But if there is enough education and knowledge to understand the consequences of carrying a knife then that can help."
Croydon Council have said tackling youth violence and gang activity is still one of their main aims.
Councillor Simon Hoar, cabinet member for community safety, highlighted a number of approaches the council takes to combat knife crime.
Including campaigns to steer young people away from knife crime, increased use of curfews and getting those who have been convicted for weapon-related crimes to undergo a weapons awareness programme.
He said: "Reducing serious youth violence and gang activity is a top priority for Croydon.
"Croydon police has worked with our youth outreach team and our antisocial behaviour team to tackle youth offending in the borough through engagement and enforcement where necessary."
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