Communities must be 'at the heart' of solutions to knife crime, says Gipton and Harehills councillor Salma Arif

The communities left devastated by knife crime must be at the heart of solutions to tackle the issue, a Harehills councillor has said.

By Abbey Maclure
Saturday, 1st May 2021, 11:45 am

The Yorkshire Evening Post's Saving Lives After Lockdown campaign is looking at preventing an upsurge in knife crime post-lockdown, highlighting the prevention work going on across the city.

Knife crime in Leeds fell by 15 per cent in 2020, but Gipton and Harehills recorded the highest number of sharp implement offences of all wards last year.

Councillor Salma Arif said solutions to serious violence in the ward must be community-led, rather than imposed on young people.

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Gipton and Harehills Councillor Salma Arif says communities must be 'at the heart' of solutions to knife crime

"Knife crime is absolutely devastating, it's awful for the families impacted but also for the wider community," Coun Arif told the Yorkshire Evening Post.

"We've got one of the youngest populations in the ward and it's one of the more deprived areas of the city - it's incredibly diverse and the mixture of people who live here is amazing.

"But at the same time it's got its challenges."

Coun Arif praised the work of community organisations such as CATCH, which offers a busy programme of volunteer activities in the heart of Harehills.

The Yorkshire Evening Post's Saving Lives After Lockdown campaign is looking at preventing an upsurge in knife crime post-lockdown

From street-based outreach and police partnerships to interactive music programmes and sports clubs, Coun Arif said the "beauty" of Harehills is its history of partnership working.

She added: "We place communities at the heart of solutions to youth violence and focus on developing a system that improves investment into community organisations, building sustainable and locally-owned facilities for young people and their families.

"The work has to be done by trusted community leaders, youth workers and organisations - where young people are used to being and by people they trust.

"It's crucial that it's community-led. But also sharing and learning about the drivers of knife crime to understand the root cause."

New projects and extra funding are led by the council's local Youth Summits, where young people in each ward are asked what they want to see in their communities.

Coun Arif welcomed funding from the West Yorkshire Violence Reduction Unit to support Harehills projects, but she echoed the council's deputy leader's concerns over funding.

She added: "Knife crime is its complex issue and it has multiple root causes. As a community, we need to all play a part in sharing information, being aware and reporting things we might see.

"We've got to engage with young people from a young age and not leave it until later on, when perhaps it's too late

"The aim is to divert young people away from offending, negative peer groups or behaviour and provide positive activities for them to engage in."

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