Safer homes would help combat youth violence in Luton says police and crime commissioner

“I’m not pointing the fingers at anyone at all. I’m just saying what I’ve seen based on my experience”
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Safer homes for young people would help lead to safer streets, in an effort to stamp out youth violence in the local community, according to Bedfordshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner.

“We’re seeing far too many young people being exposed to unprecedented levels of violence,” Festus Akinbusoye told a Luton Borough Council meeting.

A major knife crime campaign led by Bedfordshire’s violence and exploitation reduction unit (VERU) has begun locally. Its new Just Drop It strategy highlights the ripple effect knife crime can have on families and communities, and aims to deter young people from carrying or using a blade.

File picture of a person holding a knifeFile picture of a person holding a knife
File picture of a person holding a knife

Mr Akinbusoye referred to a report from the Youth Endowment Fund (YEF), which takes an academic evidence-based approach and is backed by £200m government finance.

It considers “what works in cutting and reducing serious youth violence in our communities”, he told the meeting, highlighting that “the overwhelming majority of young people don’t have anything to do with criminality and violence” in their locality.

“We see a disproportionate number of young people are exposed to violence at a young age,” he warned. “Too many of our young people are exposed to violence in the home by way of domestic abuse or neglect and this plays out in many ways.

“A police officer patrolling the streets can’t necessarily see the abuse being inflicted on a mum by her husband. There are young people seeing this, and they’re expected to go to school the following morning and concentrate.

“A YEF survey found young people were quite afraid to go to school, in some cases, because they were frightened of being attacked. It also showed many young people are exposed to violence from a young age on their (mobile) phones.

“The role social media plays in some of the serious youth violence we see in Luton is extraordinary. That’s a challenge we’re all trying to tackle. We’re investing more into early intervention.

“We give money to the youth partnership in Luton, and we’re doing a huge amount of engagement work to keep young people occupied and diverted from criminality.

“They have options, despite the violence they see around them,” he said. “We can’t solve this alone, if it’s just around the police. I’m going to carry on putting the investment in there and continue dealing directly with young people in schools.

“As a council, please consider what we can do together, especially about what’s happening in the homes of our young people. If we want to have safer streets, we need to have safer homes for our young people.

“I’m not pointing the fingers at anyone at all. I’m just saying what I’ve seen based on my experience when I was mentoring young children in prison.

“There was a parenting programme for young people who have kids. Everyone of them had witnessed domestic abuse in their home. It was no surprise to me they ended up in prison themselves mirroring what they’d seen at home.