SPECIAL REPORT: We need to believe in Northampton's youth to outgrow knife culture

More than 285 people have died from stabbings in the UK in the past year. Two of them were in Northampton – Louis-Ryan Menezes, 17, and Daniel Fitzjohn, 35.

Tuesday, 19th March 2019, 11:34 am
Updated Tuesday, 19th March 2019, 11:41 am
Picutred here are six young men who were stabbed to death in Northamptonshire since January 2017.

In the past two weeks, many have calling for more police funding to tackle the issue, and this has led to the Government announcing £100million more to address the issue.

But, as our report this week finds, handing fistfuls of money to the police will not solve the UK’s knife crime problem. In fact, as Northamptonshire’s Chief Constable Nick Adderly puts it: “By the time it becomes a police issue, it’s already too late.”

In short, top police believe that if a young person is carrying and using knives in the street, many more things have gone wrong first.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Picutred here are six young men who were stabbed to death in Northamptonshire since January 2017.

But lives can be saved in Northampton and the UK if funding is instead found to show young men what the alternative is.

“You’ve got to believe in them,” says Clive Ireson. He works with the young men who come to Spring Boroughs Youth Club. He understands what is driving some people towards crime and knives more than most. “You have to help them outgrow the culture of roaming the town,” he says.

Clive believes the spike in knife crime is rooted in years of dwindling funding for youth services and, put simply, places for teenagers to be.

Excluding problem children from school and eroding their prospects is a factor too. Both have led to listless young men roaming town with no output – a perfect crop to be recruited and groomed by gangs who look glamorous and prosperous by comparison.

In the past week, many people have declared the knife crime epidemic in the UK a national emergency.

And soon after, young men are carrying knives to protect themselves from other young men carrying knives.

Clive said: “They say it’s for their own protection – from other people carrying knives. But they are children as young as 12. They don’t know the consequences.”

Clive has seen how knives destroy young men’s lives. One of the boys his club knew was Kane Allaban-Hamilton – who is now serving a 14-year sentence for the murder of Liam Hunt, 17.

There were no gangs in that case. It was just young men carrying knives. Kane had one, and the court heard some of Liam’s friends tried to ‘tool up’ before the stabbing. It was a brutal attack – one the judge called ‘just short of an execution’ – involving young men who wanted to prove themselves.

Louis-Ryan Menezes, 17, was stabbed to death in Northampton in May last year.

Nothing excuses Kane’s actions – but Clive says the murder could have been prevented if someone had helped him sooner. Clive said: “He had a lot of energy, and therefore a lot of potential. If someone had helped him into work or training he could have used his energy there and not on the streets trying to prove himself.”

Funding the police to catch knife criminals is one thing. But some believe that, if more funding for programmes like youth and sports clubs is found, it could help to show young men the alternative to roaming the streets.

And so, in the past week, CIRV - the Community Initiative to Reduce Violence - has come to Northampton. The programme to show gang members the consequences of their lifestyle and ask them to turn their backs on violence has proved hugely successful in Cincinnati, Boston and Glasgow.

Anyone can refer into CIRV - whether that be someone who needs help themselves to get out of ‘gang life’ or someone who is concerned about someone they know.

Liam Hunt, 17, was stabbed to death in a group attack in February 2017.

Chief Inspector Daryl Lyon who leads CIRV, and launched the event at Sessions House in Northampton on Sunday, said: “CIRV has been hugely successful in Glasgow, Cincinnati and Boston and we are hoping to mirror that success here in Northamptonshire.

“The program is not an easy way out for anyone and it requires a significant level of commitment and hard work - those engaged must commit to leaving drugs and violence behind."

Northamptonshire Police Chief Constable: "The very best thing that can happen is an officer stops them and takes the knife off them."

Anyone looking for a ‘quick solution’ to the UK’s knife epidemic ‘will not get one’, says Northamptonshire’s Chief Constable.

The furious debate over knife crime has led to many calling for the Government to pour more funding into policing to tackle the problem.

And last week, Chancellor Philip Hammond announced a £100million funding package against violent crime.

Kane Allaban-Hamilton was jailed for 14 years for Liam Hunt's murder - but a youth worker who knew him says at some point, all of it could have been prevented.

But the county’s Chief Constable Nick Adderley says a lot more needs to be done than just funding the police - and says the UK could face this crisis for as long as six years.

Meanwhile, Northamptonshire faces up to 40 knife crime offences a month.

Chancellor Phillip Hammond at first dismissed calls for funding on March 8 and said police forces would have to use the money they already had.

CC Adderley said: “If the Chancellor is telling the police to prioritise resources to tackle knife crime then we have to move resources away from other areas. That means you can no longer focus on problems like burglary and sexual offences.

“The public then are frustrated because they feel they are not getting the focus they deserve in those areas. Other areas suffer.

“But the problem is, even if the Chancellor handed over £5m and told us to solve knife crime it would not be a big help. More services than just the police need funding to solve this problem.

“This epidemic willl not be solved overnight. It’s a four, five or six year job. If you’re looking to a quick solution you will not get one.”

The number of police officers in England and Wales has dropped by more than 20,000 since 2010.

But to the parents of Northamptonshire, CC Adderley wants them to know the force is there to help and prevent young deaths.

He said: “The very best thing that can happen to a young person carrying a knife is an officer stops them and takes the knife off them.

“If you are concerned about what your child, you can call 101 and a neighbourhood officer will sit down with you and your child to talk about the dangers of carrying a knife.”

Liam Hunt's killers were jailed for a total of 36 years. But they have been turned away from the violent culture they were part of?
Daniel Fitzjohn was stabbed to death in Kingsley last year in what the judge called a tragic case of 'wrong place, wrong time'.
Daniel Quinn was jailed last month for the murder of Daniel Fitzjohn, 35, who was stabbed to death in Kingsley in June.
Northamptonshire Police Chief Constable Nick Adderley says once knife crime becomes a police issue it's already too late.