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Police target primary schools in bid to tackle teen crime

Top cop advice to young officers is to 'say sorry' before every stop and search

23 June, 2017 — By Alina Polianskaya

Superintendent says intervention in schools required to tackle gang culture 

POLICE chiefs have launched a new approach to tackling knife crime in Westminster by speaking to children in primary schools.

Westminster Borough Commander Peter Ayling said the problem had become a “critical concern” for the Met and he was worried about the “social phenomenon” of teenagers “normalising carrying knives”.

There was now “a real focus on early intervention in schools”, particularly at a primary level, he said at a council meeting this week.

Chief Superintendent Ayling said: “This is where we missed a trick… to engage much more with primary schools. I’ve been to three primary schools in the past week and the engagement with that group of pupils is much easier. They are very enthusiastic and not hostile.

“We can have a conversation. I don’t think from a police perspective we have been visible enough.”

He said that they needed role models from within the community to speak out against knife crime, but that these were proving rather difficult to find.

“It’s not about saying we support the police, it is about saying don’t carry a knife as your life will be in danger.”
Cllr Barrie Taylor, who sits on a scrutiny panel discussing knife crime this week said that mothers were speaking up about the issue.

Westminster Extra has reported on a group of mothers who have set up a group aimed at tackling knife crime in north Westminster.

Chief Superintendent Ayling told the meeting on Tuesday about the pitfalls of stop-and-search tactics, which have been used in the fight against knife crime.

He said that he advised officers to “start every encounter by saying sorry” and to do the search in a discreet place.

“Be over-polite, over-courteous, always take the moral high ground,” he said.

Regent’s Park ward councillor Gotz Mohindra questioned statistics that around 20 per cent of stop and searches led to results.

“That means 80 per cent don’t,” he said.

He questioned how effective the process was, as for many it was “quite embarrassing” and could “breed upset and anger”, he said.

But Chief Superintendent Ayling said that 20 per cent was quite high, adding: “I have been stopped and searched in my time… I really didn’t like it. It felt like a violation and it felt like people were taking my liberty.”

In terms of providing more opportunities for disposing of knives, he said: “You have seen some of those horrific knives, such as ‘zombie-killers’, that have been recovered.

“People who buy those have no interest in disposing of them.”


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