Open letter from Tom Hayes

Across England and Wales, the number of fatal stabbings has hit the highest level since comparable records began, more than 70 years ago. It’s deeply troubling for the country and the families directly affected that these rises are being caused by a huge increase in the number of young people whose lives are being lost to this national stabbing epidemic.

The (recent) murder in my own St Clement’s ward, the assault on a young woman in Headington (last week), and other fatal knife-related attacks in the last year are deeply tragic and shocking. The police and the Drugs Taskforce’s Problem Solving Officer, employed by the City Council, have been attending community meetings in East Oxford and the visible police presence has been increased as a direct response to these sad deaths. Oxford does not suffer from the same levels of knife crime that we read about in the national press. As such, recent stabbings and knife-related deaths are an issue of particularly high concern to members and our city.


Councillor Tom Hayes has written this open letter to colleagues

Over the last couple of weeks, the City Council has been working especially closely with our partners to strengthen our immediate response to knife crime. I’m writing to share an update from the point of view of our City Council on the work that we are doing with Thames Valley Police, the County Council and our community safety partners, to stop knife crime through engagement with young people, proactive police work and our work with communities.

READ AGAIN: Four men charged with murder after Oxford stabbing appear in court

Before I do, I want to update you about the announcement by Government today of a one-off fund of £100m to seven areas to help them tackle knife crime in England and Wales. The money will be concentrated on the seven areas where violence is highest. The Thames Valley will miss out and not receive extra funding to tackle knife crime.

Current partnership efforts to tackle serious violence focuses on safeguarding our young people and vulnerable adults, tackling the visible signs of drug dealing and misuse through our Open Spaces Drugs Task Force, and engaging communities through our community call-back approach.

READ MORE: Jordan Anderson appears at court after Headington co-op stabbing

This week sees the police in Oxford running Operation Sceptre, a campaign to remove knives from our streets. This involves knife amnesty bins in the police stations, weapons sweeps with Council officers in our parks using mental detectors, targeted activities in transport hubs and intelligence-led operations against suspected knife carriers.

The City Council’s work across partners includes training 150 GPs on knife crime and County Lines drug dealing by the Youth Justice Service, working with community forums to address local concerns about drug dealing and knife crime, work with young people at risk of involvement in gangs and the closing of properties taken over by drug gangs, known as 'cuckooing'.

READ AGAIN: Stabbing at Headington Co-Op - pictures and videos

Oxford City Council, Thames Valley Police and Oxfordshire County Council created and launched the Oxford Public Spaces Drugs Taskforce six months ago to tackle open drug dealing and drug taking in Oxford. The taskforce has a police sergeant, two police officers, two PCSOs funded by Oxford City Council, a problem solving officer, and a problem solving analyst, and is funded by the City Council, Thames Valley Police and the Oxford Community Safety Partnership. The taskforce targets three hotspots at a time and carries out bespoke activity to make it harder to deal or use drugs in the area. The Taskforce’s work has focused on the closing of properties taken over by drug enslavers and tackling the open drugs supply.

Oxford City Council’s Youth Ambition Team is running a new programme of outreach sessions, and school-based interventions. This approach focuses on engaging with young people at risk of getting involved in drug dealing and knife crime, and getting them the help and support they need.

Clearly, every young person needs the opportunity to succeed. Youth services can help young people to enhance their readiness for learning and develop the key skills needed for employment. High-quality youth services can also prevent young people from being exploited by gangs and falling into a life of crime, and every member will know about and regret the loss of essential youth services over the last eight years.

To be most effective, the City Council and our partnership approach needs the help of you, other councillors, and the residents you represent and live amongst. Please share this information with relevant people and groups, so that we can together do all we can to make Oxford a safer, prosperous place for our young people and the communities we live in.

If you suspect someone is carrying a knife call 999.

Tom Hayes is Oxford City Council Board Member for Safer, Greener, Environment