The Mayor of Hackney has said that more needs to be done to help young black men who are the main victims of crime in Hackney.
Speaking at the ‘State of the Borough’ debate on Wednesday night, Jules Pipe said that Hackney is a “much safer place” than 10 years ago, in spite of two Homerton stabbings in recent weeks.
He said: “According to police crime statistics, there 11,000 fewer crimes committed per year now than there were 10 years ago. We used to have some of the highest ranked gang members in all of London; now that is no longer the case.”
The mayor added that the recent murders were part of a “London-wide problem… of young men being unable to communicate and express themselves properly.”
Number of criminal cases “significantly reduced”
Hackney Council intends to add to its three-pronged programme, which includes youth outreach projects in schools, in the hope of seeing a drop in gang activity.
Mayor Pipe argued that it was “young black men who were the real victims and targets of crime” and that this stemmed from the gentrification of the borough.
Fellow panel member Tunde Okewale, who grew up in Hackney and has gone to become one of Britain’s leading criminal barristers, said that although there was still a gang problem in the borough, “the number of criminal cases coming from Hackney to the courts has significantly reduced.”
However, members of the audience voiced their concerns over continued incidents in the borough.
One resident, Donna Lewis said: “As the mother of a 16 year old, my heart beats until he comes through the door. I am yet to feel that Hackney is as safe as it needs to be.”
The debate turned to focus on the lessons that had been learnt from the 2011 London riots, with several of the panel members expressing scepticism as to the progress that had been made.
“Only time will tell”
Panel member Dr Cheryl Day, head teacher of Clapton Girls School, stressed that it was a “minority of Hackney’s young people” involved in the looting and criminal damage that took place, “and they weren’t all young”, she added.
Mr Okewale stressed that the police reaction to the riots was inadequate and only inflamed tensions.
He said: “It would be premature to say that the issues that were the catalysts of the riots have been resolved. The police and political reactions to the protestors worsened things, causing the riots to spill out to the rest of London and across the UK.”
“Only time will tell if we’ve really learned any lessons from all that happened,” he continued.