Can youth violence and knife crime really be ended ? We believe they can
The news has been full of reports and debate on violence and knife crime. Can they really be ended ? We believe they can and that peacemaking is the key
It is just over two weeks since Glendon Spence, a 23 year old young man, was killed at the Marcus Lipton Youth Club, close to our offices in Brixton. The attack happened in the early part of a Thursday evening and many young people and children witnessed what happened. The police have said they believe Glendon was targeted and attacked deliberately.
Knife crime and youth violence have been in the headlines again as the lives of Glendon and others have been taken. The press talks of a national crisis and ‘war on the streets’. Politicians are under increasing pressure to do anything which will stop the violence.
Alongside the tragic deaths, there are many young people being injured and traumatised in incidents that don’t make the headlines and may not even be reported.
We see first hand the impact this violence has on a community. The trauma for those who were there and saw the attack. The devastation for the family and friends of the victim. The fear of further attacks. The anger and frustration that nothing seems to change.
A whole range of solutions are proposed and debated – from greater police numbers to increased stop and search to more public spending – anything which will work quickly to prevent any more young people being killed or injured and their families, friends and communities devastated.
But we know from our own experience that building peace and ending violence takes time. Youth violence and knife crime will not end overnight.
That’s why we’re committed to live and work in an area for the long term. Short term interventions may tackle some of the symptoms of violence but they won’t tackle the root causes. Those root causes are are multiple and complex and revolve around deprivation, a lack of opportunity and the anger and frustration that result.
Our peacemaking work is relational and practical. We believe the levels of violence will reduce as we empower the community to cross divides, to build relationships and to work together to bring about the changes that are needed. We are using community organising to develop and equip community leaders and groups who are then mobilised to bring about change.
Many young people we know and work with closely have been directly affected by the recent attack in our community. They have also faced other huge challenges in their lives. Some have lost friends or family members to violence, had those they are close to go to prison, been excluded from school, had parents working all hours on minimum wage trying their hardest to provide, have families who have suffered the instability caused by benefit sanctions, suffered racism or lived in terrible housing.
Yet many of these young people show incredible resilience in the face of these challenges. They should be celebrated and they should also be supported so that, rather than leading them down a path towards violence and more suffering, their experiences lead to more hopeful and fulfilled lives.
Our role is to come alongside and provide that support – building deep, meaningful and healing relationships, to work together to create more opportunities for these relationships to grow and develop and to look at what actions can be taken by these young people and their families to tackle the injustices they experience.
All this happens through simple activities like making pancakes together or games nights, 121 mentoring, school group sessions or community meals. Unexpected places of healing, celebration and hope.
As we work together, change is happening. The situation remains extremely challenging and the path may be long but with new relationships crossing divides, anger turned into powerful action for change and a lot of love and time, we are on a journey of peace.
We’d love you to be a peacemaker and join us on the journey. You can support us by clicking on the donate button on this page.
Can the violence and knife crime be ended ? We believe they can.