Fatal knife attacks on under 25s are becoming “more frenzied”, the London Assembly has heard.
Lib Peck, the director of London’s Violence Reduction Unit (VRU), expressed concern about an increase in the number of people under the age of 25 being stabbed to death.
Ms Peck stated that hospital staff informed her that attacks in this age group appeared to be becoming more violent.
She also urged the police to refrain from disseminating images of knives.
The issue was raised during a VRU review, which resulted in a £22.4 million investment in combating violent crime by treating it as a public health issue.
The latest figures for London show a slight increase in youth homicide, from 30 murders in the year between June 2019 and May 2020 to 33 in 2020-21, according to the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime.
This comes on the heels of a 17-percentage-point drop in overall homicides, from 144 to 127 over the same time period.
Ms Peck told City Hall’s Police and Crime Committee that the number of murders was “unacceptable.”
Although the overall trend was “in the right direction,” the increase in the number of killings of people under the age of 25 was “very concerning,” she added.
“A lot of people have different ideas about why that is the case, and there isn’t any firm evidence,” she said.
“The most compelling reason I’ve heard is that some of these murders have been more frenzied attacks – that’s the intelligence I get from hospitals – whereas previously that could have been an isolated stabbing incident that didn’t escalate into a homicide.”
“That appears to have been a very, very tragic feature of some of the recent events.”
Ms Peck stated that she wanted the VRU to “get under the skin” of why the rise occurred.
She urged the Met Police to stop using images of knives on its social media feeds, claiming that they were influencing young people to “tool up.”
“I was pleased to hear the Met’s response, which was that if they see research that indicates a negative impact, they will consider it,” she said.
“There are two pieces of research coming up in the next couple of months that I hope will persuade the Met to listen to.”
“I’m very eager to advocate on behalf of young people about the importance of avoiding using knife imagery.”
Donna Murray-Turner, a Croydon activist who works with families who have lost loved ones as a result of stabbings, agreed that the police should stop showing the knives they had confiscated.
“It’s easy to become desensitised because there have been so many deaths,” she explained.
“We know the cops are out there taking knives away from people and keeping us safe – that’s not unusual.”
“We need a different perspective to see what else we can do to combat this, and that includes listening to the communities involved.”
Caroline Russell, a member of the Green Party in the Assembly, has called for action on knife images.
“We must listen to what young people have to say about this,” she said, adding that “it is shocking that the director raised this with the Metropolitan Police Service some time ago and no action has yet been taken.”
“We are very aware of the ongoing debate around sharing images of weapons on social media,” the Met Police said in a statement. We take great care in releasing all of our information across all platforms, including images containing weapons.
“We do this to highlight the work of our officers and successful outcomes in order to reassure communities that the Met is committed to targeting those carrying weapons and fueling street violence.”
“We always include wording that explicitly discourages weapon-carrying and violence to accompany any imagery,” the statement continued.