This week`s news that the murder rate in London has dropped by a quarter in the last year is very positive news against the backdrop of articles of violence which have been commonplace in the media for a long time.
The main reason for this change is given as the increased use of police stop and search powers, which I would have to agree with.
However, stop and search is just one aspect of the solution in reducing violent crime and within the same week as the grabbing headline of the reduction, a 15 year old youth was stabbed and killed in a park in London, with another seriously injured, having narrowly escaped being another statistic.
Last month the Prime Minister met with many representatives from various agencies to find ways of working jointly in tackling violent crime and this will very much be a work in progress. However, funding will remain a massive hurdle to overcome, because with any solution, there needs to be people to implement it and after the cuts in staff across all public services, there ate simply not the resources available yet.
It is true that people have been able to carry weapons and drugs without much fear that they will be searched over the recent years, which must be one of the main reasons why there has been such a surge in violence, therefore the increased use of these powers will assist. But many of the searches will have been a result of specific targeting in areas where there has been violence, where a blanket Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 is used.
Section 60 allows for any police officer to search a person found within an area, where no other reason for the search will apply. These powers are available for a limited period and once violence is no longer anticipated, then the power to use stop and search will end.
In all other stop and search encounters with the public, Police Officers still need to justify why they are searching someone and there needs to be reliable information to allow for this to happen.
The justification to use the power to search someone is quite correct because random searches would be wrong and contrary to a person`s human rights, so any officer will need to consider what information is available to them and if there is reliable intelligence about that person, or the area they are in, to use the power.
Violence is closely linked to drugs and both these things are also related to difficulties in families, poverty and young people not being in education, training or employment.
There is a strong sense of belonging in being within a group, even if it is a violent one and some young people are drawn to these groups. The challenge is getting those involved away from these bad influences and to prevent other`s from getting involved.
The work that the Prime Minister has begun is positive, but there is a long way to go, since these social problems are in so many of our communities. For some readers, you may live in cities where there is violence, where others will not be so aware, but the social problems are general and it is these which need to be worked on urgently and the resources provided to achieve the aims.
So, although this week`s news is perhaps the positive one we have longed for, there is a need to stay focussed on the overall aim, which will be more long term.