CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

London mayor Sadiq Khan joins ‘weapon sweep’ in Camden Town

London Mayor suggests fewer school exclusions could halt downward spiral into knife crime

17 October, 2019 — By Samantha Booth

Sadiq Khan arrives in Camden Town

THE Mayor of London has said he cannot force headteachers to make changes around exclusions but told the New Journal yesterday (Wednesday) that he wants to see fewer children kicked out of school.

Sadiq Khan is among a growing number of high- profile figures who believes that reducing the number of exclusions could prevent teenagers falling into a downward spiral that ends in being involved in knife crime.

He was in Camden Town to join an orchestrated weapons sweep of the Maiden Lane estate. TV cameras followed as he donned rubber gloves and joined local officers searching bushes for knives.

Sadiq Khan, his entourage and press descend on Maiden Lane

Pupils from Regent High School and Camden School for Girls were also invited to take part.

It was the Mayor’s most open visit to Camden since the borough saw three murders in the space of just five days last month and fresh calls for crisis action to stem the wave of stabbings.

One of Mr Khan’s hopes is for more “trauma-informed” teachers in schools to help support young men and women before they end up being excluded.

He said children “playing up” because they had been secretly affected by domestic violence or with siblings or friends who had been stabbed or arrested needed to be spotted.

“A trauma-informed teacher will look for the signs and see if they can step in and help a young person before that escalates,” Mr Khan added.

The Mayor speaks to the New Journal

The New Journal revealed previously that nearly 700 children were excluded from the borough’s schools in a year.

The Town Hall has pledged to focus on why so many were being removed, but has stepped back from calls to hold a scrutiny inquiry.

Mr Khan said the “fragmentation” of types of schools – such as free schools and academics – is a “big problem”.

Speaking to the New Journal in Camden Town he drew comparisons between the much-quoted Glasgow model – also known as the public health approach – where he said as exclusion rates dropped, so did violent crime.

He said there had been a “massive reduction” in crime in the Scottish city and that “there can’t not be a link between there also being a massive reduction in exclusions there, when in London and England we’ve had a massive increase in exclusions.”

Mr Khan added: “I’d much rather give good advice and support to a young person so they’ve got the skills and the qualifications to get a good career rather than pick up the pieces later when they’ve committed a violent crime.”

However, the Mayor also said on education that he had very few statutory powers, adding that “what I can do is convene and bring people together”.

He referenced the violence reduction unit he set up at City Hall as a clear sign that he was taking the issue of knife attacks in London seriously, but once again said he had been hampered in the fight against crime by central government cuts.

Mr Khan had visited members of the Somali community, who have been disproportionately affected by violence, last month as well as the relatives of bereaved families.

He said it was “heartbreaking” to hear that some young people were now too scared to leave their house to play football. The spate of killings this year and the familiarity with seeing forensic tents led the New Journal to run a front-page headline challenging the authorities over whether this could now be considered “the new normal”.

Mr Khan said: “No, it can never be normal, to have people scared of their personal safety, it can’t be normal. To have mums and dads losing their sons and daughters.”

Met chief: ‘We’ve been stretched’

LONDON’S most senior police officer yesterday (Wednesday) admitted that police murder squads had been “stretched” but this was not the reason why some murders remained unsolved, writes Samantha Booth.

Met Police commissioner Cressida Dick, who admitted during a visit to Camden Town that she was aware that some parents were worried for their teenage children’s safety on the streets, said two extra new homicide teams had been created.

Met Commissioner Cressida Dick takes questions

“Of course, in general terms, I would like more officers and we’re growing,” she told the New Journal. “And we will be growing across the Met and that will no doubt have a good impact on the homicide teams. I’m not going to say that we have unsolved murders because, currently, we have stretched detectives. We are fantastically good at this work. We don’t give up. We do our level best to bring people to justice.”

Arrests have been made but no one has yet been charged over the deaths of 22-year-old Calvin Bungisa, 24-year-old Wilson Varela and 25-year-old Assad Yarow who died in separate incidents this year.

Commissioner Dick joined in the weapon sweep in Camden Town yesterday, and found a pair of silver scissors stuck in the ground. A steak knife was also found separately during the search of the Maiden Lane estate green space.

Met chief Cressida Dick finds some scissors

The Home Office announced 1,369 new officers for the Met this month, but it is not yet clear how many of them would come to the joint policing borough of Camden and Islington.

Commissioner Dick said: “We are, of course, growing and will be putting more people on the streets and I am sure that Camden will get its fair share of that growth. But I do understand that right now people will feel concerned about their children and concerns for some people about walking around. I hate that. And that’s why we’ve had an increased presence around here in the last few weeks.”

She added how her officers were going around London trying to dismantle gangs.

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