INPUT – the range of health professionals, namely, membership of the BHA, were exercised by a creeping increase on the loss of lives amongst the youth through knife crime.  This resulted from sharing anecdotal evidences from close clinical observations, social involvements in bereavements and reading of the Somali community that had seemingly ‘kept-in-check ‘Somali Youth the involvement in knife-crimes and/or related negative activities.  The option of doing nothing was off the BHA table, hence the rolling out of the seminars/workshops to study/seek a model that would ‘keep-in-check’ youth involvement in knife crime and/or related negative activities.  The challenges here was networking the various community interests, finding the resources i.e. space, finance, materials, time; access to statutory agencies such as police, social workers, counsellors, etc; assembling the youth who would be interested or find discussing knife-crime interesting to attend.  Evidently the appropriate resources were assembled and in turn the relevant/appropriate officials from statutory agencies were available to take part in all the sessions and/or proffered formats, unsurprisingly graces by parents, the youth and professionals.

The critical observation was the sensitivity to the range of inputs, notably, of Muslim faith, youths  aged7-32year olds; gender – male/female;  leadership – community leaders;  role models – youth leaders, professionals – mental health workers/Social workers/psychologists/police, etc; race – white/Asian female/male.All these variously attended the various sessions.  Notably, the spread of sessions were 5 (five) in 5 (five) different London locations interspersed by time of some 6-month period.  Despite focus on the topical issue, the different sessions were attended by different participants and the only common/constant feature were the interlocutors from BHA.

PROCESS – Each session was set up with staged introductions sensitive to the mode of engagement/format to be used.  A range of engagement formats were interactive sessions, questions and answer sessions – both written/verbal, presentations on success stories and failures – personal testimonies/journeys; 1:1 interviews - post-session reflections. In each of the session all participants were encouraged to express their feeling as appropriate.  Within each engagement format was a mix of models used such as the conference model - where the presenters sat at the front facing the audience; focus group model – where a select of participants were engaged on subtle questions in the effort to find common ground/approaches on the way forward; round table model – where all participants sat in a round format to engage on issues on the floor.  In encouraging participation and focus on the topical issueof knife crime issue, the less confident such as the 8 year old boy/girl, or those likely to be intimidated by presence of mother/fathers/peers/police officers, were sensitivity tended to, suggesting, the power distance/gaps was effectively narrowed/bridged enabling the youth to share their feeling and, suggestively, the impact of knife crime to remain firmly in focus.  The BHA interlocutors constantly guided the session to stay on message of tackling youth knife crime.

OUTPUTs–The engagement starting points at each turn/session was different.  In general was the Police and the youth’s understanding of knife crime; the black people’s attitude towards the Police; inter-generational communication gaps such as between parents/children; cultural/identity disconnects such as those born in the UK and of those born outside with experiences of that upbringing before relocating to the UK; value system such as dignity/respect embedded by socio-cultural continuity versus institutional/statutory interventions.  These conundrums were captured quite well by personal testimonies/experiences of a Police Officer ‘Mr G’.

Focus on youth behaviours in relations to the starting point of a youth being involved with knife crime was quite challenging.  The role of parents or parental interventions such as noticing behaviour change, spying/checking on social medial platforms, boundaries of enforcing discipline bordering on abuse, was challenging.  Parental absence mitigated by efforts of making ends meet and responsibilities to nurture positive, civil and meaningful living versus living by comparison i.e. must have what parents cannot afford, too was challenging.  These conundrums were captured quite well by a personal testimony of a mother whose son died from a knife stabbing.

Awareness on the knife crime blighting effect on the youth too was challenging.  There were blind corners in the dialogue such peer effects where a youth is aware of or knows of an intent to commit crime/violence, yet hold back the information from parents or police.  A mode of dialogue between parents/children that can deepen family relationship away from children depending on external peers too was challenging.

Police interventions and attendant trails of fear too were challenging.  This dialogue unpacked a range of negativities, arguably admitted by the police officers who attended, as in need of cultural attention such as recruiting more ethnic police reflecting the community being policed.  Some facets of these conundrums were captured quite well by an intervention by a female police officer and of one community leader.

The guiding star such as sticking to ‘...what is most pleasing for one to live for or living for...’ that one would not want to lose.  This kicked-in a lively soul searching for the youth to nail down this quoted critical issue and the intent was to guide the youth to stay on message and focus on what one values.  Evidently 23 (twenty three) youths took part in this session and no two objective were similar, suggesting being involved in knife crime is not given but can take away what one values.  Arguably each of the youth were left to ponder on these choices facing one or in which way one turned or is forced to turn.

Imperfections as a word was not used, but have constructed from the statements that parents are not perfect and police reactions are in many cases misplaced.  There was a degree/concert of expression about human imperfections such as all involved or concerned or interested or affected such parents, police, youth, professionals, etc, to understand the situation each faces at an instant.  The identified view such as the Police Stop and Search, which intended consequence is deterrence, but unintended consequence possibly worsens the community/youth relationship.  Of youth not being conscious of responsibilities for the actions they get involved in was captured well by a caution from one youth to quote ‘...not realising what you are losing until you lost it...’

Through interlocutors/moderators:-  There were 3 separate sub-sessions each with a different question, namely, parent/children relation, single parent household and peer friends.  The summary was variously as follows:-

  1. promoting awareness of knife crime by sharing experiences of both perpetrators and victims.
  2. Any youth can be a proactive resource to share any concern on knife crime committed or likely to be committed with any professional such as a doctor, lawyers, accountant, nurse, faith leaders, etc., within the community. One example of such a proactive stance that informed this output was a White Female invited by a black youth to one of the seminar/workshop - a learning to both the Police and attendees.

OUTCOME – about impact on those who attended the various sessions and by extension, the interested reader(s) on the initiative to ‘keep-in-check ‘knife crime amongst the youth in respective communities.

Family/Police collaboration.  This was various mooted by the youth, the parents and the Police Officers.  It arises from mode of communication between and amongst all the elements interested in ‘keeping-in-check’ the knife crime.  One outstanding example that was shared of Police reactions to a telephone call about feat of crime being committed or are likely to be committed and the on-site responses which are usually insensitive and heavy handed.  To this end the first concert of views was that Police risk assessment is a matter of duty but on-site response should be tempered with sensitivity.  The second to explore/identify ‘Community Influencers’ to be engaged in a real event where a real knife has been used; in the interim to create a community-based Police model i.e. the Police that knows and are/is sensitive to the neighbourhood.  In the interim, the Police signposted attendees to a MOPAC website for information on Police Stop and Search.

During the one-to-one post-seminar interviews, was a broad agreement such as the community/youth collaborating with Police; a change in police culture in absence of recruitment of black people into community policing work, but efforts be made to use models and combat negativities about police/community relations to enable black people partake meaningful and gainful living doing community policing.

Behaviour/Character tuning was a set of powerful phrases floated in the attempt to capture the passion of the youth limited by their level of knowledge, confidence to express themselves in the presence of older people, parents and the police on this high-level/burning matter of knife crime.  This was spurred largely by the learning that the Police and attendant statutory agencies had a misplaced approach to raise awareness of knife crime, namely, that the starting point should be at the Secondary and not Primary School education level.  The concert was that this was to be seriously reflected on or revisited.  Another was the effect of teaching models on behaviour suitable to the youth and/or culturally sensitive versus imposing one, which are usually inappropriate or impractical.

Social media platform to be developed linking current mode of engagement with access to sharing concerns as well as enhancing parent/youth/community trust and communication.  Soft resource/model for professional/police/community leaders for guiding youth through the challenges of living/peer influence.