SACRYD: Campaigners confront gang violence
In the current press climate, all attention is focused on the phone hacking scandal. The fact that in Lambeth there have now been 8 murders in 9 weeks has received little coverage. This Murdoch effect does partially explain the lack of media attention to this mass slaughter, however the fact that those who have died are young Black men provides a more compelling reason. This, in addition to the current public spending cuts, means that there is a danger of seriously aggravating those issues that drive levels of violence and leaves Black communities feeling cold at the prospect of increased levels of violence.
Dangerous levels of community complacency, parental irresponsibility, Government indifference and increasing rates of violence are combining into a nightmare scenario. That’s why radical and urgent action is needed. We need a paradigm shift both in relation to the mindset of the Black community, taking greater levels of leadership responsibility, and challenging Government ineffectiveness and indifference.
A new response is required
SACYRD is a new campaigning organisation. Established as a social enterprise company with charitable objectives, SACRYD was founded in 2010. The name stands for Strategic Alliance of Communities Reducing Youth Destruction.
Made up of people and organisations from the voluntary, faith and private sectors, including parents, young people, local Government and health organisations, all are committed to tackling violence with a focus on knife, gun and violent crime in our communities. SACRYD is supported by organisations such as The Black Police Association, The Damiola Trust, The Peace Alliance and the famous Eastside Academy.
The costs of murder and inaction
In London alone, for the 12 months from April 2010 to April 2011 there were 126 murders. Each murder cost on average £1.4 million to investigate and bring to prosecution, resulting in a cost of £176. 4 million.
Add to this, the cost of 150 London murders in 2008/9 which amounts to £210 million, this means that in the last two years alone the average cost to the taxpayer of murders has been £386.4 million.
The costs of murders in London over the last decade or so from 2000 to 2009 escalate to £2 billion pounds. With over 619 murders nationally last year, that cost rises to £886 million a year.
In short we are spending billions in investigating, prosecuting and incarcerating those found guilty of murder and these figures represent a tiny fraction of the financial cost associated with dealing with violent crime.
The social and economic costs of violence and murder are beyond calculation. The fear of crime, the psychological impact upon a community’s sense of well being, the trauma and terror caused by high rates of murder in deprived communities are severe in the extreme.
The long term impacts of high violence and murder rates contribute to the social and economic blight that impacts upon all aspects of community life.
We believe that investment in a comprehensive public health awareness, education, prevention and diversion strategy is money better spent and much more likely to lead a continued drop in the rate of violence, the numbers of murders and increase public safety whilst reducing the fear of crime.
Contrast these vast sums of public money with the ever reducing amount of money currently spent on crime diversion and youth services.
These figures give rise to the growing community perception that murder is a profitable growth industry and that as long as it is largely confined to poor communities, then no real action will be taken tackle the underlying causes that give rise to violent communities.
Whilst central Government and local statutory agencies staff and personnel come and go, the one constant is the community itself. The missing part in an effective response to violence is the primacy of local communities in any partnership to reduce violent crime.
Tackling the growing incidence of violence in communities will require the adoption of violence prevention programmes from a broad spectrum of health workers, community workers, police, schools, the media and communities themselves.
All of those involved in SACRYD recognise the need for a dynamic campaigning community in organisation that can advocate and champion the need for the urgent adoption of a community led strategic preventative public health approach to reducing violence.
We are campaigning for the Government to return the 100% confiscated criminal assets to the community to fund anti violence initiatives. At present, over £120 million is confiscated and that money is sent straight to the Treasury.
Statutory failure - community indifference
For years a broad range of community organisations have sought to convince successive Governments of the need to take urgent preventative action to tackle serious youth violence. The response has been piecemeal, short term and enforcement led. This is best summarised as the ‘jail, hospital and cemeteries’ approach resulting in increased rates of incarceration alongside increased rates of serious youth violence and an increase in the fear of crime.
Black communities themselves have in the past relied too heavily on statutory funding from central and local government. Combined with a general level of ignorance about the true social, psychological, emotional, economic and environmental costs of violence this has led to a dangerous degree of dependency that has created a climate of complacency.
The reality of the situation we now face is one of completely unacceptable levels of violence and increasing fear of crime. This is against a backdrop of statutory failure, characterised by a distinct lack of policy creativity and innovation and a general failure to eliminate the insidious culture of statutory silo working that prevents the adoption of a joined up approach. Alongside this is are highly transient, deprived communities who are deeply disenfranchised, disempowered and disinclined to engage.
My own view is that it is now time that those communities most affected by violence have to take direct action in the face of such indifference. The sad reality is that in addition to statutory failure, the Black community has to accept responsibility that some of the parents of those young people involved are grossly irresponsible.
The wider context is of local and central government closing down many community based early interventions services, crime prevention and diversion programmes, youth clubs and community centres, after school clubs and nurseries, libraries as well as local parks and adventure playgrounds.
There is genuine fear that as a consequence, things could get much worse as vulnerable young people and the wider community become increasing alienated from society.
Day of Action
SACRYD Day of Action campaign will focus on demanding the adoption of an overarching public health and anti-violence policy approach that focuses on prevention, education, rehabilitation and the return of criminally confiscated assets to high crime communities.
At a time of increasing austerity confiscated criminal assets should be returned to communities to fund community projects designed to deter and prevent young people becoming seduced into a life of crime. If a crack dealer is running a crack house on an estate we should take his cash and open a community centre. That would inspire confidence in the Criminal Justice System as well, at a time of cuts to public spending, this cash should fund local initiatives to combat crime.”
SACRYD Day of Action objectives are to demonstrate both the level of anger and concern at the continued and unacceptable levels murder and youth violence affecting young people.
We intend to challenge both the failures of statutory agencies and community indifference by seeking to facilitate community empowerment and local leadership in delivering a public health approach to reducing violence.
We want a renewed focus on prevention and early intervention, not just a focus on enforcement.
A planning meeting for this event will take place on Wednesday 20th July 6pm-9pm @ Greater London Authority, City Hall, The Queen's Walk, London SE1 2AA.
Picture: Friends and family arrive at the scene of the stabbing of Charles Junior Hendricks in 2008