Knife crime rises more in Merton than anywhere else in London


Shocking new figures published by the Metropolitan Police show the number of knife offences in Merton has risen by 35% – the highest rise across all


By Sam Smith

Shocking new figures published by the Metropolitan Police show the number of knife offences in Merton has risen by 35% – the highest rise across all the London boroughs. 

A total of 239 knife offences were recorded in Merton for the financial year ending March 2010 compared to 177 for the same period in 2008/09.

The figures are compounded by the fact that of the 29 offences committed in March alone this year, only one resulted in a sanction detection whereby formal action was taken as a result of an offence.

Despite the sharp rise, Merton has one of the lowest knife offence rates across London, although the new figures are of great concern for re-elected Conservative MP for Wimbledon, Stephen Hammond.

Speaking before his re-election, Mr Hammond said: “I am deeply dismayed by the figures. I know that the police are acutely aware of the issue as are the schools and various other youth institutions around Merton.

“We must do something immediately to combat the rise. Luckily we haven’t had any tragic cases apart from one last year, but we must do something to reverse the trend.”

Mr Hammond was unable to give a possible reason for the sharp rise and insisted that he will make it a priority to address the issue.

“I will be seeking a meeting with Christopher Bourlet (Merton Police Borough Commander). I have had regular three monthly meetings with him so I’ll be looking to do that as soon as possible,” he said.

“I think one of the things we have to do is fight the culture of carrying a knife and part of that is through public education.

“Carrying a knife may seem like a big thing to do, but a moment of madness can destroy several lives – not only the person attacked but for the attacker as well.

“There also has to be a reality that if you carry a knife and are caught with it and it is deemed to be an offensive weapon, the expectation from my party is that you should expect a custodial sentence.”

There has been a spate of fatal stabbings in the capital recently, the latest a 16-year-old boy stabbed to death in a park in south east London last week. 

Several anti-knife campaign groups have been formed out of such tragic incidents. 

One such group is Families Utd which represents the families and individuals affected by knife crime. Its own anti-knife campaign, Count Me In, has over 35,000 supporters on Facebook. 

Barry Mizen is part of Families Utd. His son, Jimmy, was murdered the day after his sixteenth birthday in May 2008 near his home in Lee, south east London.

Speaking about the rise in knife offences in Merton, Mr Mizen said: “The figures are shocking. It shows the danger of complacency and we need to get on top of this.

“Until we get to grips with the real long term issues then we’re not really going to be working for change, all we’re going to be doing is fire fighting.”

A big part of Families Utd’s work is educating youngsters in schools and prisons, a method which Mr Mizen believes is vital in combating knife crime.

“We go into prisons, we go into schools and we try to get people to think. We tell them ‘look, this person really died, it wasn’t a soap opera, it wasn’t a film, it wasn’t a game, this person really died’ and we get listened to.”

Mr Mizen supports Mr Hammond’s proposal of using education as a means to tackle knife offences in Merton.

“A lot of MPs just bang a big drum and say ‘we’re going to give extra long sentences,’ it’s nice to see someone take a more measured view of it.

“The long term answers here are through education and maybe a little bit more love and care,” he said.

“The perpetrators don’t carry a knife just like that. It’s a gradual build up of behaviour, starting in some cases from two, three, four years of age.

“By the time the police get involved with some of these kids it’s too late. Some people think we can arrest our way out of these problems but we can’t.

“We can certainly dampen down the fire for now but it won’t actually get to the root causes of it.

“All we can do in the short term in Merton is stop and search and try to be a bit more pro-active.

“But the long term answer is to look at the education system.”

Details of Families Utd’s anti-knife campaign Count Me In, can be found on Facebook or on the group’s website

The Metropolitan Police were not available for comment.

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