North London community comes together in church to respond to rising knife crime
St Mary’s Church and North London Citizens, the local chapter of Citizens UK, brought together members of the community in North London for a Citizens’ Assembly last night in response to the recent rise in knife crime and gang violence across London.
The Assembly saw local groups and institutions share their experiences on the front line following the recent rise in knife, gang and racist violence across London, and develop a plan to help end this crisis.
The Assembly was attended by over 150 members of the local community, as well as Cllr Georgia Gould, the Leader of Camden Council, Tulip Siddiq MP and Keir Starmer MP, co-chair of Camden Council’s Youth Safety Taskforce.
The Assembly also saw the launch of the Safety Commission.
This body will look more closely into the causes of knife and gang violence, and seek to collaborate with politicians, police and other services in taking the next steps – together.
This will include a visit to Glasgow, led by Cllr Georgia Gould, to learn from the Glasgow model, and a push for the government to recognise youth knife crime as a public health issue.
Recent statistics show that at least 39 people have been fatally stabbed in London since the beginning of the year, with 8 young people supported by St Mary’s youth work team murdered in the last 14 months
St Mary’s Church is the home of St Mary’s Centre, a charity focused on helping to reduce gang violence, and support young people at risk of social exclusion.
St Mary’s Centre adopts a rare, individual-focused approach to youth work, with 1:1 support for young people needing support.
They are on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, to reduce gang violence, and support young people facing mental health issues and individual hostility.
Speaking about the rise in youth violence across the capital, a young person who is supported by St Mary’s Centre said:
“I’m 16. It’s worrying, but it’s normal. If someone gets stabbed, you just have to move on. If no change occurs, then yeah, it’ll get worse. That’s how it is sometimes.”
Jason Allen, who leads the youth work at St Mary’s Centre, said:
“Change cannot come without community cohesion. Tonight was just that.”
Camden Citizens and Islington Citizens are a part of national Community Organising charity, Citizens UK, and have worked on a range of issues over the past five years: ranging from housing, to the Living Wage, to safety.
They’re coming together with St Mary’s Church in the wake of the recent surge in violence to plan their own response to problems of knife and hate crime, and to support key leaders in the police, councils and healthcare to do the same.
Revd Nick Walters, Curate at St Mary’s Church, said:
“St Mary’s Church is proud to serve its local community. From St Mary’s Centre, to working with schools; from the cold weather shelter for the homeless, to hosting Alcoholics Anonymous, it is at the heart of Camden. Confronted with the worsening state of violence, it now seeks to lead conversations – locally and nationally – about how to tackle this crisis.”
Hugh Murdoch of Citizens UK:
“It’s clear that any response to the awful violence across London will need to put at the forefront the response of local communities. Citizens UK brings schools, faith and community groups into relationship with one another, and here in Camden and Islington we are working to develop a community response, driven by those directly affected by these problems.”
The Bishop of Edmonton, The Rt Revd Rob Wickham, said:
“Jesus speaks of a desire for human flourishing but in the wake of the rise in violent crime in London, our communities are clearly struggling to flourish. This Citizens’ Assembly and subsequent Commission on community safety in Camden is timely, as we pledge to play our part in rebuilding a healthier and more hopeful community. This issue affects everyone, which means that everyone needs to respond. I shall be playing my part, will you?”
Photo credit: St Mary’s Centre