Next Tuesday (14 March) Bristol Council will debate a Green Party motion on tackling knife crime and its causes, which would commit the council to work to increase the amount of emergency ‘bleed kits’ available at night time venues around Bristol and seek more funding for grassroots community projects addressing youth violence.
The motion, proposed by Green Councillor for Cotham Mohamed Makawi, would also seek to address ‘blind spots’ hidden from CCTV in the city centre, call for more funding for council strategies aimed at reducing youth violence and drug and alcohol harm, and request better street lighting and CCTV coverage in ‘hotspot’ areas such as Queens Square, as well as a range of other actions.
The issue is close to Councillor Makawi’s heart as he was a friend of a recent victim of knife crime in Castle Park, Adam Ali Ibrahim. He said:
“I feel emotional about bringing this motion to Full Council, because I know how it feels to lose people in your life – a son, sister, brother, friends or someone you know closely or from a distance. When people pass away tragically and suddenly the effects are felt deeply – no matter how hard we try to forget about it, it can leave a deep psychological and emotional scar time will not erase.”
Fellow Green Councillor Yassin Mohamud said knife violence was a key issue in his ward of Lawrence Hill, where teenager Dontae Davis was fatally stabbed in 2021. He echoed Cllr Makawi’s sentiments, saying:
“Knife crime is amongst the most serious issues for our young people. The permanent psychological pain it leaves on both the victim and culprit’s memories, together with that of their families, is far much greater than the physical scars it leaves on the victim’s body. Therefore, we need not only to tackle issues around knife crime but we need to address the root causes too.”
Rather than simply calling for more policing, the Green motion seeks to address the varied causes of knife violence which have a range of social factors. Councillor Makawi explained:
“We all wish that there was just one thing that we could do to stop knife violence. But there are no shortcuts and there is no one single solution. Media-driven ‘moral panic’ pushes politicians towards the wrong solutions. The indicators of this violence include social factors like poverty, domestic abuse, lack of education (particularly expulsion from school) and grooming by gangs.”
The motion’s full list of actions resolves to:
Councillor Makawi added:
“I don’t believe increased police numbers and tougher prison sentences are the only solution to the problem. It’s not about Stop & Search it should be about Stop & Engage – about engagement with the communities, local councillors, schools, stakeholders, police teams and regulatory services like licensing.”
Going into more detail, the Green Councillor said:
“I think a youth and family prevention approach is needed to build community resilience. This could include support for parents to help their children develop skills and personal resilience and steer them away from violence, and increase awareness of warning signs. It’s also important to support grassroots projects that work with young people vulnerable to grooming by gangs – providing activities, employment and educational intervention as an alternative to serious youth violence and criminality. This could include youth provision organisations like such as Learning Partnership West, Youth Moves, Creative Youth Network, Bristol Somali youth organisations, Full Circle Project, groups in the Sudanese and Gambian communities and the Malcom X centre.
“Finally, we also need to work with trusted youth workers and influential peers, and engage in serious positive conversations with the hardcore of young people already carrying knives to try and get them out of gangs and rehabilitated. This needs a multi-agency approach, and support across sectors, working with the community to create an effective intervention. We have to put the community at the heart of the solution and provide the resources to make it happen.”
Ani Stafford-Townsend is the Green Councillor for Central ward, which contains a large proportion of Bristol’s night time venues and some areas of areas of concern for knife violence, and contributed to the motion. They said:
“Knife crime is a continuous concern for residents and those working centrally in the night time economy. Sometimes the incidents are fatal, as we sadly saw this year in Castle Park. We must do as much as we possibly can as a city to protect our young people from the impacts and causes of knife crime.”
Councillor Makawi said he hoped all parties will support the motion at next Tuesday’s meeting, adding:
“Tackling this serious violence requires co-ordinated action on multiple fronts, from all parts of the public sector. Politics can be divisive, but if there was ever an issue to unite our efforts and inspire us to stand together, then surely this is it.”