By Jane Nellist
Incidents in Coventry involving knives and guns are on the increase. There have been several fatalities and serious injuries. The most recent attack in The Burges, where a 15-year-old was shot and seriously wounded in a ‘drive by’ attack, has left people horrified. The deaths of Emmanuel Lukenga from a knife attack in Tile Hill and Patrick Hill in Earlsdon are just two of the 28 knife attacks in Coventry in the first seven months of 2019. In the whole of 2018, there were 16.
Parents are understandably in fear for their children. It’s only because of the skill of paramedics and doctors that more youngsters have not died. But many young people have been left with life changing injuries.
The response by the police, much depleted in numbers and resources, was to state that they would have more armed police on the streets. Increasing the number of armed police will not deal with the underlying reasons why gun and knife crime is on the increase. We need a much more holistic response to get to the root cause of this. Policies to deal with growing poverty and the rise of gang culture must be prioritised.
For the last 9 years, austerity cuts have hit our city hard. Austerity has been a political choice by the government. Local politicians have failed to mount a serious campaign to win more resources for our communities. Millions of pounds have been taken from the city which has meant that vital services such as youth clubs, Sure Start centres, community wardens, and other services that we relied on, have been slashed or disappeared altogether.
Young people see their families struggling in low wage precarious work, often taking more than one job to survive. Benefits are being slashed with the introduction of Universal Credit. The reliance on food banks is growing. Food and fuel poverty affect thousands. Imagine how young people feel when they can see their families struggling.
Add homelessness and overcrowding, with the lack of affordable homes, and you have a toxic cocktail where young people feel increasingly alienated.
If young people feel that they don’t have a future, the temptation that gangs and crime offer can seem more attractive. As we know only too well, this can ensnare them into a life of misery and potential violence, exploited by others.
More armed police are not the answer; Other Measures, like extra police on the streets can have a contradictory impact – sometimes making whole communities feel criminalised rather than protected – especially with police powers like ‘stop and search’ which disproportionately target black people and only creates more tensions. More local police and PCSOs rooted in the community would help – but much more is required.
Our younger generation must feel that they have a future. They need a guarantee of high-quality training and a job with proper rates of pay.
We desperately need a huge injection of money and resources into our city. The money is there – it’s just that it’s in the wrong hands. Whilst the rich are getting richer, squirreling their money in offshore accounts and refusing to pay their contribution in taxation, our city is being squeezed.
Instead of investing millions of pounds of our money into a luxury hotel or the City of Culture, councillors should be prioritising those most vulnerable in our community.
- Use the council reserves to provide necessary services for our communities and launch a massive campaign, alongside trade unions and community groups, to demand the government provides the money that is needed;
- Join with other councils to demand that the government starts to invest in our communities and pays back the money we should have had;
- Open well-funded youth and leisure centres that provide free sport opportunities including free swimming and gym membership and other activities
- Train more youth workers and mediators to work with those caught up with gangs;
- Raise the minimum wage to £10 an hour and stop the exploitation of young workers;
- End zero-hour contracts.
If young people in Coventry are to have a decent future, we need a socialist society that values the lives of young people. Where the resources of this wealthy country are spent on the majority, not the millionaires. We need to plan the economy for need not for profit.
Do you agree with our ideas?
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