So far this year, more than 20 teenagers have been killed in London as a result of knife crime.
Earlier this month, the Mayor of London launched a new campaign in a bid to appeal to young people who carry a knife by using the hashtag #LondonNeedsYouAlive.
In response, some have questioned whether Sadiq Khan really understands what is happening on the streets of the capital and what it would really take to get a young person to stop carrying a knife – arguably more than a social media campaign.
Back in June, the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) published a knife crime strategy.
It includes prevention tactics, practical steps on how to stop easy access to knives, tough punishments for lawbreakers, a promise to work more with grassroots organisations, and a number of other measures.
But even still, many community leaders say the strategy must go further by letting the community itself take a lead on tackling knife crime.
They believe that we can prevent young people from getting involved with knives through early education, and if there is a so-called ‘cure’ for knife crime then it would be for them to show young people caught up in this lifestyle, through mentorship and financial investment, that there is an alternative way of life.
Samuel Akokhia, 27, is an ex-prisoner who was jailed for four years for robbery, but eight years on and he is now a pastor, a mentor and the owner of Zuriel, a recruitment company which helps place up to 70 young people in employment each week.
He became involved in the criminal world because he needed money, but believes that if we can teach young people about alternatives, fewer will turn to crime.
‘Young people need mentorship. Not from parents or teachers, but [from] a person who is knowledgeable about where these young people are coming from and what they’ve been through,’ he said.
Mr Akokhia received mentorship through an organisation called SPAC Nation Foundation, where he was taught how to use his skills, as well as receiving financial support to start a business.
‘I was taught that through entrepreneurship I can be my own boss, make more money than a regular nine-to-five and ultimately achieve the status I want,’ he said.
He soon realised he wasn’t interested in violence or crime once he could see another options.
‘You can talk to a young person until you’re blue in the face but unless you show them an alternative way there will be no change,’ he said.
Duro Oye is the co-founder of 2020 Change, a social enterprise based in Tower Hill that works with young people to help them to become tomorrow’s leaders.
For the past four years 2020 Change has been working with schools and youth groups around the UK and Europe running a ‘mindset adjustment’ programme called Goldmine.
Targeted towards people aged 16 to 30, the programme aims to help young people cultivate the right mindset in order for them to live and thrive in today’s society.
Mr Oye believes fear is what drives a young person to carry a knife as they often feel they have to choose between becoming a victim of crime or a perpetrator.
‘Young people are constantly bombarded with information that makes them have a particular mindset,’ he said.
‘For example, the kind of music they listen to, video games they play, even negative stories in the media they see. It is all fuel for fear.’
Mr Oye believes education is the best way to reduce knife crime and he believes prevention programmes similar to Goldmine should be part of the national curriculum, rather than worrying about hashtags.
‘Campaigns like the Mayor of London’s are a small effort but it doesn’t deal with the real underlying issues that young people face,’ he explained.
‘Schools need to take citizenship lessons as seriously as other subjects such as maths and English, but the question always is who is going to pay for it?’
Kiyan Prince was just 15 when he was stabbed to death outside his school in 2006.
His father Mark Prince set up a foundation in his memory to educate young people about the dangers of knife crime.
He said the government needs to go one step further by tackling the root cause of knife crime, and believes certain industries are exposing young people to violence, crime and sex despite knowing the negative effects it can have.
‘Society promotes violence. It’s in the games they sell and the music young people listen to, and then society wonders why kids want to play the bad man role,’ said Mr Prince.
‘Where are the games that encourage you to be an entrepreneur? If you can get a game where you can become a pimp or a killer why can’t you play a game where you are in a good job?’
Mr Prince thinks that entertainment industries that glorify crime and violence should be better regulated.
He also believes a generational shift in parenting style is a large part of the problem.
“Parenting is about more than clothing feeding the child, it’s about teaching them how to value life, and respect for other people,’ he said.
Mr Prince believes there is too much social emphasis on having material goods over anything else.
‘They’ve been sold a dream of greed and not one of aspiring to have a good character or to look after your community,’ he said.
‘So to counteract this you have to send out the message of love, unity and respect for your fellow man by talking to them about this from a young age.
‘Otherwise knife crime will never cease. Right now we are simply reaping what we as a society have sown.’
Sadiq Khan’s crime strategy is focusing on tackling each individual case after the fact, rather than dealing with the core issues affecting young people in London.
In order to solve our knife crime issue we must focus on prevention rather than cures, and begin within the community itself, rather than the Mayor’s office.SadiqKhan’shashtagcampaignwon’tsolveLondon’sknifecrimeproblem