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23.10.2008 Europe

UK Govt 'failing to address causes of knife crime'

UK Govt 'failing to address causes of knife crime'

The government is failing to address the root causes of knife possession among the country's youth, MPs have claimed.

The Commons public accounts committee today published a report into how effectively the Home Office has been tackling violent crime through distributing funding to Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships, as well as how well good practices were being spread.

Edward Leigh, the chairman of the committee said: "Knife crime is a matter of great concern to the public.

"Using the newly available information about the prevalence of knives at crime scenes, together with other research, the Home Office, police forces and Crime and Disorder Partnerships must tackle the root causes of knife possession among the young. They need to know a lot more about why youths join gangs and how they can be diverted from membership.

"This whole subject of violent crime is bedevilled by a continuing lack of reliable data on the effectiveness of interventions."

Mr Leigh accused the Home Office of being slow in collecting the relevant data and spreading good practices.

The committee found that a large number of the partnerships had never used information available from the ambulance service and accident and emergency units.

The Home Office's attempts to tackle serious violence and gang-related activity are being undermined by poor distribution of funding and the department's mixed performance in spreading good practice, MPs claim.

"Partnerships often lack the information, analytical capacity and strategic approach necessary to understand and, therefore, tackle violence in their communities effectively," today's report claims.

More than 40 per cent of the partnerships said they did not consider themselves to have sufficient resources to analyse the violence occurring in their areas.

And the report found that only half thought the Home Office was effective at spreading good practice about tackling violent crime.

Commenting on the findings, shadow home secretary, Dominic Grieve, said: "Despite modest and welcome fall backs in the last year the fact remains violent crime has increased by 80 per cent under Labour.

"With the number of 15-17 year olds carrying a knife doubling, just what kind of problems are we storing up for the future? This report betrays the lack of joined up thinking when it comes to tackling this particular scourge.

"Instead of conscientiously designing and properly evaluating solutions and interventions in this area, Labour have simply spent the last ten years spinning initiative after initiative after initiative. This has left us ill-prepared to deal with the increasing problems we now face. This makes them part of the problem, not the solution."

Home secretary Jacqui Smith responded to the report, saying: "I am committed to tackling serious violent crime and action is already underway to address the committee's concerns.

"Last month I announced £3.8 million of funding for local community groups to run diversionary activities in the Tackling Knives Action Programme police forces. The new fund will provide grants for intensive work with young people most at risk of gun, gang or knife crime through mentoring and outreach work, positive things to do on Friday and Saturday nights and for local awareness raising campaigns.

"We will look at the committee's recommendations with interest and respond fully in due course."

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