Knife crime falls in Waltham Forest but fears continue to grow

Knife crime in Waltham Forest is falling but residents are only becoming more scared of it, research shows.

The council’s Violence Reduction Partnership (VRP) found attacks have fallen by almost a third since August 2018, the biggest drop of any London borough in that period.

However, at the same time, residents’ fears about knife crime increased and Waltham Forest now has the second highest rate of knife crime fears in the capital.

Research into Waltham Forest residents’ perception of knife crime was carried out in October and November last year, using focus groups and one-on-one interviews.

One older man told researchers: “We all know someone, or know someone that knows someone that’s been affected by knife crime.

“It could be a mugging at knife-point or you may know someone who got stabbed and killed. I do. It’s a jungle out there and you’ve got to be careful.”

Another resident said: “I don’t want the council to waste money telling me that crime isn’t that bad. I can see what’s happening with my own eyes. I believe what I see and feel, not the stats provided by the police.”

In a survey in June last year, more than half of residents listed crime as one of their top concerns, with almost a third saying fear of crime has a strong impact on their quality of life.

However, many appear to have become desensitised to knife crime, with others blaming the media for sensationalising factual stories.

Sarah, a 26-year-old Walthamstow resident, said: “I’m not worried about crime and I don’t feel unsafe. It doesn’t affect me personally, but I do see it affecting some young people in the area.

“Two years ago a family friend was murdered and a few months ago one of my best friends was stabbed. I guess it is just normal now, I’m used to it so it doesn’t bother me.”

Another young woman who participated in the focus group said her 12-year-old brother took a knife into school the day after he was threatened at knife-point on his way there.

She said: “It got found and now he’s expelled from school. He’s really anxious all the time now. He’s worried, like we all are, about getting stabbed.”

A young man interviewed insisted “people need to take personal responsibility for themselves”, claiming he feels safe because he doesn’t “put [him]self in danger”.

Others felt police publicising pictures of weapons seized was “more likely to scare people than make them feel safe”, adding it could encourage others to “go out and get a bigger knife”.

Waltham Forest’s VRP has so far been held up as an example of “best practice” among similar schemes outside London.

A report, due to be presented to cabinet on March 12, states: “Though violence remains too high in Waltham Forest, we are making progress in reducing knife crime across the borough.

“Since August 2018, knife crime offences have reduced by 29%, and knife crime with injury by 35%. We have seen a steep reduction in the number of victims of knife crime aged 16 or younger.”

“The reductions in knife crime offences are the biggest of any London borough over that time period.”

Victoria Munro

Local Democracy Reporter