We’re ignoring the futures of our young people’: Students voice concerns at Havering College Knife Crime Question Time event
“If I cared about each and every one of you that gets stabbed I would end up in a hospital.”
Jonathan Smith, a paramedic and representative from the American charity Stop the Bleed, shared his experiences of watching young people bleed to death from stab wounds. He was speaking at Havering College of Further and Higher Education’s Knife Crime Question Time event in Ardleigh Green Road on Thursday, May 16.
He was joined by several other panellists who answered students’ questions about knife crime.
The paramedic said he couldn’t afford to have emotions when dealing with patients.
“You are something broken that I need to fix,” Mr Smith told the students.
“And I will do that come hell or high water.”
Following the discussion, chaired by Jack Parsons, chief executive of the Big Youth Group, the principal at the college explained that it would be working with Stop the Bleed to raise awareness about the best ways to stop people bleeding when they have been injured.
At the Q&A event, students bravely shared their concerns about racism, blowback from knife crime incidents in Havering, their own experiences of witnessing stabbings and the issue of “snitching”.
Another panellist, Nathaniel Levy, whose brother was stabbed to death in 2004, encouraged the audience to report information to the police.
“We always think it’s never going to be us,” he said. “But if it is, we’re going to hope somebody said something.”
In March, a student was stabbed near the college’s Quarles campus.
Pc Harinder Sanghera, another panellist, revealed that there had been an attempted stabbing just 45 minutes before.
The victim of the first incident escaped but gave only vague details of what happened to college security.
“He didn’t want to speak to the police,” said Pc Sanghera.
“I was here [at the college’s Ardleigh Green] campus at the time. The time it would have taken me to get to Quarles campus would have been about 40 minutes.”
“For me it isn’t about snitching, it’s about doing the right thing.”
London Assembly member for Havering and Redbridge, Keith Prince, added that anonymous reporting exists and told students to use Crimestoppers.
One student wanted to know what activities there were in the borough following government cuts to youth services.
Anita Stewart, who works as the strategic lead for adolescent safeguarding at Havering Council, encouraged the students to visit MyPlace youth centre in Harold Hill and to join Havering’s Youth Council.
Speaking about the Youth Council, she said, “That’s your forum and your voice where you can help shape services in Havering.
“I’m coming from an angle of partnership and collaboration. No man or woman is an island. We’re not on our own.”
Brexit proved a controversial issue as the panellists disagreed on whether the results of the referendum had influenced the rise in knife crime.
Mr Prince, said: “I don’t believe Brexit has anything to do with knife crime.
“It’s been caused by mistakes made by the former Home Secretary Theresa May, and the current Mayor of London, when they reduced stop and search.”
Nathaniel disagreed and said that Brexit discussions meant the focus on young people had been lost.
He said: “We give so much focus to arguing and fighting that the youth don’t get any attention.
“We’re ignoring the futures of our young people.”
One student agreed that Brexit was a distraction and said school should spend more time teaching them how to be “bosses” to set them up for their adult life.
Paul Wakeling, principal of Havering Sixth Form and the Havering College of Further and Higher Education, responded by saying that education is definitely an “asset” for students.
He said: “I think it’s really important the type of curriculum that we make available to young people.
“One of the problems that we’re facing is the amount of financial cuts there have been in the education sector, some of that additional work we used to provide has unfortunately slipped away.”
Pc Sanghera was unable to answer a question about what was the worst incident of knife crime he had seen.
He told the students: “I’ve been a police officer for 10 years and the biggest thing I’ve seen is the lack of responsibility.
“It isn’t your fault as young people, it isn’t necessarily the police’s fault, but I think collectively if we’re able to take 1per cent or 15pc of the responsibility – that’s where we can start to make a bit of a difference.”
Visit stopthebleed.usuhs.edu for more information.