A serious case review of 60 troubled young people carried out by Croydon Council  to better understand how to respond to the needs of vulnerable adolescents drawn in to violence – has found that not only did none of them have a permeant place in school but they also lacked any kind of relationship with a trusted adult.

The findings of the interim research carried out by Croydon was revealed by Hamida Ali, Cabinet Member for Safer Croydon and Communities at the London assembly’s police and crime committee.

The council has subsequently  announced plans to create a Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) and adopt a public health approach to tackle the root causes of serious violent crime which is what led to homicide figures dropping dramatically in Glasgow. The public health approach advocates treating crime as a public health issue and focusing on prevention rather than cure.

Croydon’s VRU will take a personal approach to each serious violent crime, taking the viewpoint that each offence stems from a wide range of issues, from inequality and poverty to vulnerable young people and families with complex needs.

Croydon’s plans will build on its recent successes in crime reduction. In the last 12 months it has been one of the only boroughs in London to see knife crime decrease.

Croydon has seen a 13 per cent decrease in knife crime in the 12 months up until June 2018 compared with the previous years which is in contrast to a 14 per cent increase across the capital.

Since November 2017, the number of under 25s injured with a knife in the south London borough has dropped by 24 per cent compared with 12 per cent across London. Cllr Ali, speaking to the London assembly’s police and crime committee, about the interim findings,  said “The Croydon Safeguarding Children Board has commissioned work with a serious case review looking at 60 cases to try to understand how our response to vulnerable adolescents could be improved and to see if there is something that we could learn about the common characteristics of those young people, some of whom have very sadly lost their lives and some of whom are still with us. In all of those cases, those young people were already known to the local authority and, in some instances, before they were born, their mothers were known to us. 

“In every single one of those 60 cases, not one of those young people had a permanent place in school. We are very familiar with the conversation around  paternal absence. What we found – and these are interim findings at the moment – was that maternal absence is also a very important feature. 

“Again, it is that concept of emotional absence and not just physical absence, massive unaddressed mental health needs but also, in speaking to the conversation already about role models, not one of those young people had – as the jargon goes – a relationship with a trusted adult. Forget a parent; not a grandparent, not an uncle or an aunt, not a neighbour, not a mentor, not a family friend.”

Chief Supt Jeff Booth borough commander for Croydon says the drop in knife offences against under 25s is through working relentlessly with partner agencies and community groups such as ANOS (Another Night of Sisterhood).

Donna Murray-Turner, Chair of Croydon’s Safer Neighbourhoods Board of Croydon, and founder of  ANOS (AnotherSisterhood) has spoken about how grasssroot community outreach and engagement are intrinsic elements in pursuing early intervention with regards to the current social issues that under pin youth violence.

ANOS have also been holding workshops with the people teaching young people about their rights when it comes to stop and search.

In the last year in Thornton Heath and Bensham Manor there have been at least two stabbings with no arrests.

Cllr Ali added: “Working together with communities we’ve started to see a reduction in serious youth violence. However, we know from the recent loss of life in London, that we need to work harder to make further reductions.

“We’re encouraged that our approach to tackling serious youth violence was recognised as an example of good practice at the mayor’s Knife Crime Summit by the police and London councils.”