On Thursday 1st February I wrote an article for The Guardian: 'Arresting kids won't stop knife crime. Police should target the men in suits'.
In response to a surge in knife and gun crime, the media and political focus has been on young people. I argued that knife crime is not being driven by youths, but by organised criminals and gangsters.
Young people falling into the wrong crowd in Tottenham, Salford or Croydon know nothing about the trafficking of tonnes of cocaine across our borders every single year. They know nothing of the shipment routes from Central and South America that have made London a cocaine capital of Europe. They know nothing of the lorries, container vessels, luxury yachts and private jets that supply our nation’s £11bn-a-year drug market. They know nothing of the dirty money flooding the London property market, hidden behind anonymous shell companies registered in tax havens.
This isn’t about kids in tracksuits carrying knives, it’s about men in suits carrying briefcases. It is serious criminal networks that are exploiting our young people, arming them to the teeth and sending them out to fight turf wars.
Yet we hear precious little about all this from the home secretary, the head of the National Crime Agency (NCA), or the commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. We know that Border Force budgets have been cut by a quarter, and the government has even considered plugging the gaps with volunteers. We know that our police forces have had their budgets cut. We know that the NCA is prioritising cybercrime, child sexual exploitation and terrorism, and doesn’t have the resources to tackle these powerful criminal networks. The Home Office’s draft Serious Violence strategy fails to even draw the link between organised crime and violence.
We need now to urgently focus on bringing down these criminal empires. Arresting foot soldiers is futile if we don’t go after the generals at the top.