Starmer’s knife crime lament: We simply can’t allow this to continue
Public meeting held in wake of Calvin Bungisa murder
12 April, 2019 — By Samantha Booth
Sir Keir Starmer at Tuesday night’s community meeting held in the wake of Calvin Bungisa’s murder
“WE didn’t want to be here again.”
Those were the words of MP for Holborn and St Pancras Sir Keir Starmer as he addressed hundreds of people in the wake of Calvin Bungisa’s murder.
Just over a year ago, similar meetings were held in Kentish Town after two Somali men were stabbed to death in one night.
Parents, youth workers, campaigners and residents came together again at Queen’s Crescent Community Centre for another urgent meeting on Tuesday evening.
Mr Starmer said: “We’ve been in this room, we’ve been across this constituency, having discussions like this for a long time and nobody in this room wanted to be here again. We’ve been working on youth safety for months and months, and we’ve tried to put in place initiatives. We have put in place work, but for me, whatever we’ve done, we’ve got to do more. We’ve got to hold up everything we have done and ask ourselves whether we need to do it differently.”
He adde: “What we can’t do is simply allow this to continue for a moment longer. I am convinced that the only way through this is if our communities pull together.”
Chris Kyriacou, whose son Frankie was stabbed to death in Kentish Town in 2002, paid his condolences to Calvin’s family. Speaking of street violence, he said: “It’s not getting better, it’s getting worse. We [used to have] things to do and we used to leave our doors open and people were completely different. Things have changed tremendously. We’ve got to understand why these things have changed. We’ve got to ask the question: why are these people killing each other all the time? What is it that we have and they haven’t got? What can we give them to make them understand? What can we do?”
Chris Kyriacou: It’s not getting better, it’s getting worse
Kito Soki, a youth worker for Queen’s Crescent Community Association for nearly two decades, mentored Calvin. He was “like a brother” to him, he said.
The use of the term “gangs” should stop, he believed; instead, he refers to them as “little kids lost”.
Speaking of his time as a youth worker, he said: “The young people throughout the time I’ve been working with them – 16 or 17 years – slowly they’ve been losing respect for one another, and slowly they started losing respect for the adults, the older brothers, the older sisters. Then they started losing respect for their parents. Vice versa, sometimes we have parents and older brothers and sisters that have started losing respect for their younger siblings. We are not respecting each other the way we should be.”
Chief Superintendent Raj Kohli, the new police borough commander who served in the borough 10 years ago, said: “It’s very sad to see things might not have changed as much as I hoped they would have. Every time I see a death of a youth man or woman in these circumstances, it’s just not acceptable. It’s a failure of society, frankly speaking, when we look across London and young people are dying almost on a daily basis.”
Elaine Donnellon, who is organising the #OperationShutdown march next week, requested quarterly public meetings with the authorities.
Camden Youth Safety Taskforce was set up in 2017 in response to a significant increase in youth violence. New youth projects funded by £500,000 of council cash are expected to begin this summer.
Council leader Georgia Gould said: “There hasn’t been a week that’s gone by where youth workers, community leaders and the council haven’t been focused on youth safety and trying to keep our young people safe. Tragically, we have lost another young person and that tells us the urgency of the work we are doing We have youth workers and clinical psychologists going into work with young people who are in custody to give them employment and housing opportunities for when they come out. We’ve put extra activities in over the summer period. We are working with UCLH hospital.”
She added: “We recognise there are gaps, especially gaps for older young people who are 16 to 25. One of the things we are working on is: how can we get more support for them?”
Another meeting is due to be held at the centre on Wednesday at 6pm to discuss progress made.