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Life in Lewisham...

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03 May 2013
Cafe of Good Hope
Last week the Institute for Economics and Peace published its “UK Peace Report”, which listed Lewisham as the “least peaceful place” in England and Wales. It was compiled using five indicators: the murder rate, the violent crime rate, the weapons crime rate, the public disorder offences rate, and the number of police officers per 100,000 people.
 
Many people have asked me what I make of the report and if I am honest, I think it paints an unfair picture of what life is like in Lewisham. It is true that we have problems, but the report also shows that this is the case in many parts of London.
           
The report highlights knife crime as a particular cause of concern in the borough but if we look beyond the headline statistics, there are six other London boroughs with a higher incidence of offensive weapon crime. It's a fact that for most people, most of the time, Lewisham is a safe place to live.
 
Having said that, we shouldn’t shy away from being honest about what the challenges are and what needs to be done to tackle the problem. I have met families who have had their lives devastated by senseless violence on our streets and I wish I had immediate and easy solutions for them.  I don’t. What I do know however, is that our best hope lies in the community, the police and various parts of our public services working together to address the many different factors which will lead to individuals resorting to violence.
 
If we are to tackle the problem of violence we must seek to understand the reasons why people turn to it, give those caught up in repeated violent activity a real route out and provide those in prison with the opportunity to make a fresh start upon their release. Government must invest in programmes to support those at risk of falling into bad ways at a young age and must fund community-led projects who have a track record in delivery. At the moment, this is not happening as it should be.

 In Lewisham, we are lucky to have incredible, strong community organisations which are working to make our streets safer:  the Jimmy Mizen Foundation, the Young Citizen’s City Safe Project, XLP and the Stephen Lawrence centre to name just a few. You won’t read about the work of these organisations in the Peace Report but they characterise our community just as much, if not more so, than the problems to which the report refers. These organisations have bright, responsible and inspiring young people at their heart – these are the people who represent life in Lewisham and it should be them and not the actions of a small minority that dominate our headlines.

This article was originally written for the South London Press, published on 3rd May 2013

If you are interested in reading more about how I think we need to tackle the challenges of violence in
our community,  please click on links below which will take you to some of my speeches in Parliament:

Policing debate (House of Commons - 24/10/2012)

Gangs debate (Westminster Hall - 11/10/2011)

Ten Minute Rule Bill - Internet Regulation (Material Inciting Gang Violence) Speech (House of Commons - 08/11/2011)

Public Disorder (Riots) Debate (House of Commons - 11/08/2011)


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