Children as young as six are carrying knives in the capital, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick heard when she met with community members to discuss the impact of knife crime.
Community leaders, victims and reformed gang members attended the meeting at a youth centre in Putney where Ms Dick vowed to solve knife crime. She also met with the family of a man stabbed to death last year.
London has had a surge in knife crime recently, with more than a dozen dead or seriously injured.
Sandra Elwin (right), the mother of 20-year-old Lewis Elwin who died of a fatal stabbing in 2016, attends a meeting with Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service Cressida Dick (Victoria Jones/PA)
Despite the Met’s latest crackdown on knife crime, Operation Sceptre, resulting in 70 arrests, within a week three more people had been fatally stabbed.
Speaking to community members at the Ashburton Youth Centre, Ms Dick said Wandsworth had been “profoundly affected” by knife crime.
Three young people have been fatally stabbed in the borough in 2017, as many as the whole of 2016.
Wandsworth is often described as the “safest borough” in London, but the commissioner said the level of knife crime was “unacceptable” and were becoming more frequent.
One woman said: “You are talking about teenagers carrying knives, but on the housing estate it’s six-year-olds that are carrying knives, because they think they won’t be stopped.
“You need to start there, in the primary schools – you need to tell much younger people.”
Ms Dick agreed saying: “I am sure we – not necessarily the police, because we’re not the best people often to give these messages, but possibly the police – we need to start at an early age.”
Josh Osbourne, a mentor at the youth charity Carney’s Community, said: “The feeling that I’m getting from a lot of the young people that I work with is a feeling of fear.
“They can’t even cross the road because they’re at odds or in a dispute with somebody else from literally the same postcode but across the road.”
When Ms Dick asked him which age groups are affected, Mr Osbourne said: “From the age of as young as 10 or 11, from what I’ve witnessed, up until the age of mid-20s.”