Knife crime: Locals start street patrols after Jodie Chesney murder

26 March 2019, 14:19 | Updated: 26 March 2019, 16:44

Locals from the borough where teenager Jodie Chesney was stabbed to death have launched their own patrol to take knives off the streets.

Julia Lopez, the MP for the area, told parliament the community has rallied together in response to what she called a "brutal and utterly senseless" murder.

Jodie, 17, was stabbed in the back in a park in Harold Hill, east London on 1 March. Four arrests have been made.

Mrs Lopez said: "The community response to Jodie’s murder has been profound, with marches and memorial."

"There has also been practical action, whether through support for a stronger Harold Hill street watch team or new initiatives such as the Take a Knife, Save a Life campaign, which seeks to collect weapons from the streets."

Mrs Lopez, who was speaking as MPs debated a petition calling for harsher sentences for people using and carrying blades, said the knife crime rate in the UK "is nothing short of a national emergency".

She said her constituency "topped the signature count" of the petition, which seeks to increase jail time to 10 years for those found with a knife and 25 years for those using one.

The maximum penalty for an adult carrying a knife is four years in prison and an unlimited fine.

The group Take a Knife, Save a Life, has been set up in the wake of Miss Chesney's death and is in the process of crowdfunding for uniforms and stab proof vests.

Amid a surge in violent crime and falling police numbers, the government has announced at additional £100m to help fight what it called an epidemic.

Some critics have described the extra funding as a "drop in the ocean".

Local Street Watch group in Havering, which has worked with police for years to deter crime in the area and did a weapon sweet last week, has seen a surge in people wanting to be involved in street patrols.

Sally Miller, Street Watch coordinator, told Sky News that although many want to help, not all follow through.

She said: "There are a lot of people on social media saying they want to patrol the streets, but when I approach them to come on board they don’t, some stating they don’t have time."

Mrs Miller says although the Watch group takes on a social order role in the community, they "know that the police are doing their very best in very difficult times and are trying to engage with the community as much as they can".

Mrs Miller, who has run the group of vetted volunteers since 2016, believes tougher sentences are needed.

"My personal feeling on knife crime is that sentences are not tough enough for those caught carrying," she said.

"I also volunteer as an appropriate adult in custody and one young lad said, 'At 16, two years in prison is nothing'. But if sentences were increased to six to eight years he would think twice about carrying.

"It's the judicial system that lets communities and our hard working officers down."

In the Commons, Mrs Lopez spoke to this growing belief, saying: "Many of my constituents want a far tougher regime, because they have lost confidence in the deterrent effect of the existing sentences."