I think it is easy to overlook good news when it comes to crime and, in particular, knife crime. Over the spring and early summer of this year, it seemed that almost every week we heard about another terrible and fatal stabbing of a young person, a tragic loss of another life.
But there is good news. In the year September 2007 to August 2008, gun crime in London was down by 22% and knife crime down by 10% on the previous year. This is a hopeful trend and we must work hard to ensure that it continues.
Such trends will do little to comfort the families that have lost a loved one. No parent expects to bury their own child and none should have to undergo the heart-breaking experience of having a child taken from them by a violent and needless death. Every such loss is a tragedy that simply should not happen.
Amidst the media reports, we must be careful, though, not to believe that our streets are lawless or have been abandoned to the criminals. These awful crimes are still, thankfully, relatively rare and the Police, with our support, are positively tackling knife crime in London.
Knife crime remains a priority for the Police and there have been new initiatives and technology deployed over the past years. The new knife detecting arches, in shopping centres, train and bus stations, has led to the seizure of 2,921 knives. Since midMay, and the launch of Operation Blunt 2, 126,589 people have been stopped and searched in London and 5,079 of them arrested. I watched an operation at Stratford Station in the autumn and all those being searched that I spoke to, were supportive of the police operation and understood the importance of these preventative operations.
Operations by the police, like Blunt 2, are not the only way that we, as a community, deal with the dangers of knife crime. We need to educate our young people and get the message across that a knife is as much a danger to the person carrying it as to the person they wish to "protect" themselves from.
It was a real pleasure to be at the launch of the second series of the L8R project,an award-winning interactive drama for young people played out on the net. This fabulously innovative initiative has sprung from Newham's 6thFormCollege and is reaching young people across the country. It has highly believable characters, facing the challenges of peer pressure and tackles relevant issues of today including drugs, gangs and the use of weapons. It is not preachy and is of such high quality that it has been nominated for a Children's BAFTA Award.
A twin-tracked approach of education and enforcement is the only way we are going to begin to beat the problems of gun and knife crime. Our young people must understand that merely carrying a knife puts them at risk of being a victim themselves and it is likely to lead to a criminal record. If you want to see the drama, log on to http://www.teachers.tv/search/node/L8R. If you have teenagers, I think it is worth a visit.