Police chiefs praise Islington gangs team for bucking London trend and reducing youth knife crime

Islington's Integrated Gangs Team has helped reduce knife crime among those aged under 25. Last summ

Islington's Integrated Gangs Team has helped reduce knife crime among those aged under 25. Last summer an amnesty saw these 90 knives surrendered last summer. Picture: Det Insp Will Lexton-Jones - Credit: Archant

Islington’s gang unit has been singled out for praise by Scotland Yard after its work helped buck the trend of rising knife crime in London.

Detective Inspector Will Lexton-Jones

Detective Inspector Will Lexton-Jones - Credit: Harry Tay;pr

In the 12 months leading up to January the borough saw a 13 per cent reduction in the number of knife attack victims under 25, compared to a 15pc increase across the rest of the capital.

Met chiefs are putting it down to the Integrated Gangs Team (IGT), which formed in 2016 on the back of four fatal stabbings the previous year.

Since it launched there have been no gang-related knife deaths of people under 25 and its work is now being used as an example of good practice and promoted outside of the borough.

Islington Council set aside £500,000 each year until 2020 for the unit, which is made up of police and the council’s youth services, as well as probation officers, Job Centre Plus, the NHS and voluntary organisations.

The team is currently working with up to 70 youngsters at risk of offending. Each has a case worker they meet regularly, with the aim of getting them into education, training or employment, while they are also offered support with mental health or drugs treatment.

Det Insp Will Lexton-Jones of the unit told the Gazette the success was down to the fully integrated approach. “There’s no segregation of enforcement police and the welfare-led intervention roles,” he said. “Our entire provision sits on the IGT so there’s more understanding, and a shared vision of keeping young people safe. We give them every opportunity to do something other than be in a gang.”

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Total knife crime in Islington – including knife-enabled robbery and possession – has risen on par with the rest of London. So has the number of victims aged over 25. The only bit that goes against the trend is knife violence for 10- to 24-year-olds – the IGT’s remit. It has helped drive down stabbings that are gang related from the 2016 nadir of 40pc to 20pc.

There is good work being done across a range of services to tackle the problem, but it’s clear the IGT has played a major role.

“It’s the best bit of multi-agency partnership working I’ve been involved with in my 13 years,” said Det Insp Lexton-Jones. “And it’s cheaper than investigating a murder, which costs about £1.8m.”

Insp Paul Clarke also praised the unit. He said: “They use intelligence and contacts in the community to make judgements on people they need to make interventions with.”