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Kent County Youth Councillor accuses government of being 'naive' on knife crime

A youth councillor in Kent has called on the government to stop being “naive” about knife crime as figures show a huge leap in attacks.

Alex McGovern, who is a member of Kent Youth County Council which is made up of 11 to 18-year-olds, has called for a “holistic approach” to the problem.

It comes as statistics show knife crime in Kent has more than doubled in the past five years, with 1,322 incidents reported in the 12 months to April 2018, the latest available figures.

The 15-year-old from Ashford told the KM Community podcast he wants the rest of the UK to follow a Scotland-style which was introduced in 2005 after the country was dubbed the murder capital of the EU and now treats violence "as an infection which can be cured".

The Scottish Violence Reduction Unit is a national centre of expertise and targets violence wherever it occurs whether it is on the streets, in schools or at home.

Alex said: "I feel the government are so far removed from the situation and are being quite naive by blaming things such as drill music for fuelling violence.

"They aren't taking a whole look at the issue. They aren't doing enough research and talking to young people who are directly faced by the epidemic, who know how to crack down on this."

"I feel the government are so far removed from the situation and are being quite naive by blaming things such as drill music for fuelling violence..." - Alex McGovern

He agrees with political speaker Dawnna Dukes, a former Democratic member of the Texas House of Representatives, who said “austerity and government cuts have caused a lack of aspiration's for young people".

He feels young people “don’t know how to get out of the cycle” as they are not provided with enough guidance.

He blamed past cuts on youth services by Kent County Council which has seen dozens of youth club closures across the county.

Alex said: "With no youth centres, we can't talk to trusted adults about mental health problems.

"With lack of funding in education, the youth aren't learning about careers that they might want to get involved in.

Alex McGovern, 15, works for the Kent Youth County Council (13272803)
Alex McGovern, 15, works for the Kent Youth County Council (13272803)

"Instead they are left to fight for themselves and make money in ways that are illegal because it's just easier.

"They don't know how to get out of the cycle because they have no aspirations - no value on their lives."

Most of the rise in knife crime has been in north Kent, covering Dartford, Gravesham, Medway and Swale, where nearly half of reported cases took place.

Francis Osei-Appiah, an ex-gang member and founder of crime prevention charity Reform Resort Respect, told KentOnline earlier this year he believes this is connected to increasing number of "county lines" drug gangs.

Kent Police have teamed up with the council over the past year to help crack down on the groups, in which drug dealer's from major cities target towns and villages nearby.

There has also been a rise in gangs from London grooming children in Kent to take part in county lines groups.

Nationwide, 65% of police forces reported the exploitation of children in a report to county lines crime last year.

Kent's Police and Crime Commissioner is welcoming the announcement (13363133)
Kent's Police and Crime Commissioner is welcoming the announcement (13363133)

Kent Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Scott said: “Kent is a safe place to live, work and visit, but that does not mean that we are without challenges.

"Our proximity to London, and the criminal activity being exported from the capital through organised crime and county lines, has a footprint here that Kent Police is tackling.

“There is a substantial amount of work that is going on already to prevent, engage, enforce and rehabilitate, when it comes to violence and gangs.

“Kent Police have been part of the Margate Taskforce for a number of years which provides a multi-agency approach to tackling the root causes of violence; and a Medway Taskforce is launching immanently.

“These approaches have been further boosted following recent increased contributions from the Government to prevent violent crime.”

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