We live in challenging times. The next few weeks could be difficult for all of us. The new COVID-19 restrictions are frustrating, but necessary and I support the government’s decision.
The pain of COVID-19 is being felt in households across the nation. Economic uncertainty is heightened by the continuing negotiations with the EU on post-Brexit, trade, security, and other crucial matters.
Then we have the spectre of violence, in all its different guises. From domestic abuse to knife crime - all of it horrifying, and totally unacceptable.
Monday sees the start of Operation Sceptre, a national week of action to tackle knife crime. The Leicestershire Police will be fully involved. I find it astonishing that a knife is an everyday accessory for many young people. Carrying a bladed weapon is the norm in some sections of our community. We must change this mind set, but to do this we first have to understand the problem. That is why I set up a Violence Reduction Network (VRN) last year.
The crime figures don’t tell the whole story. Sometimes I worry that they distort the picture. I have asked the VRN to delve into the data and come up with a more useful analysis of the numbers. I want to be certain that we are making best use of resources and tackling the real problem issues.
Research shows that carrying a knife, for whatever reason, increases the likelihood of the knife carrier themself being harmed. Many young people are unaware of this. This lack of awareness is one of the many consequences of government austerity. Local councils were forced to cut budgets for youth services. Youth clubs closed and funding for diversionary activities dried up. My Prevention Fund has tried to fill some of the gaps with grants for sports clubs and street work with young people, but this is no match for the millions that have been lost by local authorities.
It’s disturbing to think that, in a week when we remember and honour those who have gave their lives for peace and freedom in two world wars, there is still a battle taking place on the streets of our towns and cities. Young people are being hurt, and sometimes killed, because of greed and prejudice and police are all too frequently called upon to clear up the mess and bring the offenders to book.
This year, Remembrance Day will be different. Nonetheless, it’s essential that the significance of the occasion is not diminished because we cannot stand shoulder to shoulder at war memorials. We must remember the fortitude and courage of the fallen at a time when the liberty that we normally enjoy is constrained. Please wear your poppy with pride and continue to support the Royal British Legion in their work to ensure that we never forget.
At the same time, don’t forget the brave men and women of the Leicestershire Police. They are fighting the modern-day battle against violence on our streets and they deserve our support and gratitude.
Stay safe – in every way.
6 November 2020
Posted on Friday 6th November 2020