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Warning of ‘long way to go’ on knife crime as teen jailed for life

Youth worker says there is a potential for violence to rise again as lockdown lifts

03 July, 2020 — By Bronwen Weatherby

The 2018 killings led to an anti-violence march

CAMPAIGNERS have warned that there is still a “long way to go” to get on top of youth violence, more than two years on from a horrific night which saw two stab deaths.

The deaths of Sadiq Aadam Mohammed, 20, and Abdikarim Hassan, 17, led to a community march through the streets and the creation of council taskforce.

Last month Godwin Lunghy, 19, was jailed for life over the murders in February 2018 – a sentence which ruled he will be 40 before being considered eligible for release.

Two other young men have already been convicted and sentenced. Renee Horsford from Camden Against Violence, which formed in the aftermath of the killings, said more needs to be done to tackle the complex issues facing young people.

“I’m not trying to be negative but we’re realistic because we’re on the ground and there’s a long way to go,” she said.

“There are so many issues that lead to knife crime, it’s not something you can just change.

“Obviously, what has been done has made a difference but things have also taken a while to be implemented and I think work on prevention needs more investment.”

She added: “There needs to be a clearer idea of when intervention begins with children, for instance, facing trouble in school because often the help comes too late.”

The Youth Safety Taskforce, headed by Holborn and St Pancras MP Sir Keir Starmer and cabinet councillor Abdul Hai, was set up to understand any underlying causes behind the violence and search for ways to keep young people safe.

It made 17 recommendations, including the view that Camden should take a “public health approach” to tackling knife crime.

The council made available £500,000 worth of funding to be given to 12 projects over two years. This money has been spent in a number of areas, including training teachers in how to work with young people who have experienced trauma, creating a team of BAME young people who can have input on how to improve policing, and funding employment drop-in sessions.

Cllr Hai said: “The resulting work has been wide-ranging with numerous projects and schemes responding to the recommendations and tackling the root causes of youth violence in settings ranging from our local communities to schools, youth clubs as well as with the NHS and police.

“We’re just hoping that with the pandemic, and with the Black Lives Matter movement young people will realise there are much bigger things to focus on and will stop killing each other.”

Police reported a decrease in violence in Camden before the lockdown and since March there have been low levels of crime while everyone was urged to stay home.

But some are concerned that as the lockdown lifts while projects and activities remain on hold, young people with nothing to do will become more vulnerable to gang exploitation and more susceptible to getting involved in crime.

Mohammed Walji, youth service manager at Queen’s Crescent Community Association, said: “We have been able to help 17 young people into employment and help many others.

“But, Covid-19 put a stop to a lot of what we’re doing. Now the lockdown is being lifted there is a worry that they will engage in activities they shouldn’t.

“It’s been a great start but now it’s about making sure these projects continue to be funded so we can help hundreds.”

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