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Knife and gun crime a product of poverty and austerity
A rise in recorded knife attacks in Coventry mirrors growing concerns about violent crime across the country.
Jane Nellist from Coventry Socialist Party looks at what is behind it and how we can stop it.
Incidents in Coventry involving knives and guns seem to be on the increase. There have been several fatalities and serious injuries. The most recent attack in The Burges, where a 15-year-old was shot and seriously wounded in a drive-by attack, has left people horrified.
The deaths of Emmanuel Lukenga from a knife attack in Tile Hill, and Patrick Hill in Earlsdon, are just two of the 28 knife attacks in Coventry in the first seven months of 2019. In the whole of 2018, official statistics recorded 16. Parents understandably fear for their children.
The response by the police was to state that they would put more armed officers on the streets. Increasing the number of armed police will not deal with the underlying causes of gun and knife crime, and risks raising tensions.
We need a much more holistic response to get to the root cause of this. Policies to deal with growing poverty and alienation must be prioritised.
For the last nine years, austerity cuts have hit our city hard. Local politicians have failed to mount a serious campaign to win more resources for our communities. Instead, youth clubs, Sure Start centres, community wardens, and other services that we relied on, have been slashed or disappeared altogether.
Young people see their families struggling in low-wage, precarious work, often taking more than one job to survive. Benefits are being slashed with the introduction of Universal Credit. Reliance on food banks is growing. Food and fuel poverty affect thousands.
Add homelessness and overcrowding with the lack of affordable homes, and you have a toxic cocktail where young people feel increasingly alienated.
If young people feel that they don't have a future, a small number will find gangs more attractive. As we know only too well, this can ensnare them in a life of misery and violence, exploited by others.
Measures like extra police on the streets can have a contradictory impact - sometimes making whole communities feel criminalised rather than protected - especially with powers like 'stop and search' which disproportionately target black people and create more tensions. Democratic community control of police policy and hiring could start to address this - but much more is required.
Our younger generation must feel they have a future. They need a guarantee of free education or high-quality training, and a job at the end with living rates of pay.
We desperately need a huge injection of resources into our city. The money is there - it's just that it's in the wrong hands. While the rich are getting richer, squirrelling away their money in offshore accounts and refusing to pay their contributions in taxation, our city is being squeezed.
Instead of investing millions of pounds of our money into a luxury hotel, councillors should be fighting for resources for the city's residents and workers:
- Use the council's reserves and borrowing powers to provide necessary services for our communities, and launch a massive campaign, alongside trade unions and community groups, to demand the government provides the money
- Demand that the government starts to invest in our communities and pays back the money we should have had, and ask other councils to join this campaign
- Open well-funded youth and leisure centres that provide free sport opportunities including free swimming, gym membership and other activities
- Train more youth workers and mediators to work with those caught up with gangs
- Restore Education Maintenance Allowance
- Build council homes
- Support trade union struggle to raise the minimum wage to at least £10 an hour and end zero-hour contracts, beginning with all council employees and contracts
If young people in Coventry are to have a decent future, we need a socialist society that values the lives of young people. One where the resources of this wealthy country are democratically planned to provide for the majority, not spent on the billionaires.
In The Socialist 28 August 2019:
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