“Lives Not Knives”: tackling Wandsworth knife crime one blade at a time

The Muslim community in Tooting and Balham have reached out to try and tackle the youth knife crime epidemic in Wandsworth.

In 2019, the number of fatal stabbings in London of teenagers was the highest for a decade, which led Balham Mosque and Tooting Islamic Centre to ask the community to ask for their help in preventing youth knife crime.

An awareness of the susceptibility of Wandsworth’s youth to become engaged in, or victims of, knife crime led to the Tooting knife crime conference for parents and carers at the Islamic Centre in July, 2019. 

Chair of Balham Mosque and Tooting Islamic Centre, Arshad Daud, said: “We’ve got numerous secondary and primary schools in the area and people in those schools could very easily be the target, or they could very easily become perpetrators of knife crime.

“We thought it was really important to bring our concerns to the attention of educators, parents and young people in the community.

We felt as though we needed to step out and engage as a faith organisation with the community to work on causes like knife crime that are negatively impacting the area together.”

Two months after the conference, a knife bank was set up directly outside its premises on Upper Tooting Road.

Picture of the knife bin placed outside of the Islamic Centre. The image conveys that a nearby security camera has been purposely moved so that the bin cannot be seen.
ENGAGING THE COMMUNITY: The knife bin situated outside of the Tooting Islamic centre

The knife bank was provided by the UK’s leading weapons-surrender charity, Word 4 Weapons, which has collected more than 50,000 knives and weapons since it was established in 2007.

Partnering with the Islamic centre marked the first time that the Christian charity had worked with another denomination of faith.

Word 4 Weapons charity manager Camara Fearon said: “The charity’s ultimate aim is to create safe communities and to empower individuals through educational services, including training for youth workers, awareness sessions and a range of useful resources for schools.”

One reason knife banks have been so successful is they are not under any CCTV surveillance, so anyone can dispose of a knife or weapon and be confident they’ve not been captured on video.

When the knife bank was first opened in December 2019, 47 items, including knives, bladed items, and pliers were collected.

The following year in September 2020, this number tripled with the collection of 142 items, consisting of knives, bladed items, an assortment of scissors, kitchen utensils and DIY tools.

Scotland Yard data shows that between 2018-2019, Wandsworth was responsible for 47% of all knife-related crimes across south west London, including the boroughs of Kingston, Merton, Richmond.

A pie chart conveying the percentage of knife crime arrests in FY 2018-19, the 4 boroughs that are under the South West Command Unit of the Met Police.
Percentage of knife related arrests made by the South West CU in FY 2018-19

The same data shows that in the following year, 2019-2020, this figure dropped to 39.6%.

A pie chart conveying the percentage of knife crime arrests in FY 2019-20, the 4 boroughs that are under the South West Command Unit of the Met Police.
Percentage of knife related arrests made by the South West CU in FY 2019-20

These figures convey that there is a trend between the decrease of knife related arrests in Wandsworth, and in the increase of weapons disposed of in the Islamic Centre’s knife bank.

The Metropolitan Police commented that serious violence in London reduced by 26% in 2020.

However, as the chart above conveys, this reduction wasn’t apparent in every borough.

A Met Police spokesperson said: “We are not complacent and tackling violent crime remains our top priority.

“We are working closely and in collaboration with our partner agencies including the Community Safety Partnerships and the Violence Reduction Unit to have the greatest impact on preventing violence and identifying opportunities where we can support young people who are vulnerable and at risk due to the impact of the restrictions.

“Strong partnership, working and sharing information is vital in the collective aim to reduce violence and keep communities safe.”

The Islamic Centre and the Met Police share the belief that working in collaboration with community partnerships has the greatest impact on preventing violence and supporting vulnerable young people.

If you want to hear more about the events being run by Balham Mosque and Tooting Islamic Centre click here.

If you’re interested in the work carried out by Word 4 Weapons click here.

You can contact the Met Police to report knife crime by calling 101, Tweeting @MetCC, visiting their website or contacting charity Crimestoppers who will keep your identity anonymous.

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