Created: 19 July 2011
"I want to draw the House's attention to increasing concern in my constituency about gang-related crime.
Let me begin by saying that the London borough of Harrow is the second safest borough in London in terms of crime. The police do a brilliant job in apprehending criminals and ensuring that they are processed through the courts and punished accordingly, and they have my huge support. The Mayor of London has increased the number of police officers available to the borough, as well as the number of police community support officers. However, there is a great fear of crime in the area, which has been exacerbated by recent events. It stems from what happened two or three years ago, when Wealdstone was essentially a no-go area after dark because of the gangs in the area. The situation culminated in the stabbing of a young man at a petrol station. I am delighted to say that the police apprehended those responsible and broke the gang, and that those responsible are now in prison, but, of course, gang membership starts at different ages.
The police cracked down in Wealdstone, and that was a tremendous success, but the gangs then moved north into Harrow Weald. A gang has terrorised the local neighbourhood there. There are many recorded crimes. On Friday 24th June, nine of the gang's members were arrested after a young man was stabbed in the street at night.
Happily, the young man was not fatally injured, but he was badly injured. On Sunday 3rd July, there was another incident in which a young man was stabbed. The criminals involved have, we believe, been apprehended, and will be processed.
This is the tip of the iceberg, however. The gang is causing mayhem in the area. Young people on their way to and from school are frequently mugged—relieved of their money and their mobile phones—and are in fear of going about their normal business in daylight hours. We must combat that.
I ask the Minister for one simple action that we promised before the general election, and which I hope will happen. Those who are apprehended carrying knives should face a custodial sentence, regardless of their age. Even if they are under 18, we need to challenge young people and say, "Do not carry knives, because if you do so and you're apprehended, you'll face a custodial sentence."
We must go further, too. We must encourage parents to make sure that young people do not join gangs in the first place, and we must offer alternatives for young people. Just yards away from where this gang is operating, there is a tremendous initiative in Harrow: a joint arrangement between Watford Football Club, the National Lottery and Harrow Council to open a state-of-the-art youth centre, which will offer an excellent set of facilities for young people. My fear is that parents across Harrow may be discouraged from allowing their children to go to the youth centre because of the activities of this gang. We must take strong action to remove the gang from the streets, so that young people are given positive outcomes for their future development and positive things to do. Over the summer, I hope to see this youth centre, which I shall visit this week, start to come into operation so that we can see a more positive future.
To read the debate in full, follow this link: http://www.theyworkforyou.com/debate/?id=2011-07-19a.886.1