Luton's leaders pledge more resources to fight knife crime in town

The council and police met for a summit in response to a spate of stabbings
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Luton’s leaders have banded together and pledged to put more resources into community safety work to combat knife crime in the town.

Luton Council, Bedfordshire Police and the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner met at the major summit at Luton Sixth Form College this week which brought together community organisers, key agencies, voluntary and faith groups, and education leaders to see what more they could do to tackle the issue.

A major new knife crime campaign, called ‘Just Drop It’, is set to launch for the county next week. Wingman Mentors, non-for-profit organisation that works with vulnerable young people who are on the cusp of getting involved with criminal exploitation and knife crime, are working to bring the landmark Knife Angel sculpture to Luton next summer.

Attendees at the summit. Picture: Beds PoliceAttendees at the summit. Picture: Beds Police
Attendees at the summit. Picture: Beds Police

Nearly 100 people met at the summit on Tuesday night (November 7). Speaking for the council, Councillor Maria Lovell, portfolio holder for community safety, explained the Youth Partnership Service’s plan to build a 100K fund for Luton based organisations. The fund will be launched in February next year.

Bedfordshire Police announced it is going to appoint an additional senior leader for community policing to focus on prevention and early intervention. Chief Constable Trevor Rodenhurst told the knife crime summit he would increase the size of the force’s education and diversion team, which puts on sessions for schools and colleges.

The summit identified a range of key activities partners can do collectively and positively to improve things for young people in the town to keep them safe. The proposed ideas included: more opportunities for pastoral and mentoring support; working with boys around countering violence, negative treatment and attitudes towards women and girls, and creating more opportunities for young people to get the training and skills they need with local employers and developments.

Chief Constable Rodenhurst said: “We must not lose sight of the immense seriousness of the issue senior leaders gathered to discuss."Little over a month ago 16-year-old Ashraf Habimana lost his life in a fatal stabbing, while just this week another teenage boy was convicted of murder over the death of 19-year-old Derrick Kinyua in Luton earlier this year."Summits, discussions and working collectively are important – but I know our communities want to see tangible action from those with the power to do so.”

He added: "We know we cannot arrest our way out of this problem. Expanding what we can do around preventing young people from getting involved in behaviour that might cause them to live in fear and carry a knife is massively important – and the only way we will solve this in the longer term.”

Cllr Maria Lovell said: “I spent time with Ashraf’s mother and family, and as a mother I know we simply can’t allow the heartbreak she is going through in losing her son to continue or be repeated."Luton needs to think more like a village where everyone cares about the future of our young people."We all have a role to call out and prevent those who are the cause of the criminality and exploitation that make them live in fear and we do all we can to create the opportunity they need to thrive and play their part with us in building a positive future for our town”.

Ashraf’s death prompted questions about knife crime in the town, with residents calling on the council and police to do more.

Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner Festus Akinbusoye said: “I have been clear since the first day I took office that prevention and early intervention was the only way we can tackle knife crime and child criminal exploitation.

“This is not just a police problem and I am so glad to see this collective commitment to work together and tackle this awful scourge on our communities.”

Commenting on the event, chair of the Luton Youth Council, Sandeesha Alahapperuma, said “Young people are scared. This issue cannot be fixed in one night. It is good that there are so many people in this room to try and work on this issue.”