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ingrid cranfield

Ingrid Cranfield

The epidemic of youth violence affecting much of London - multiple knife or gun attacks every day for the past few weeks - has not left Palmers Green untouched.  There was a stabbing in Broomfield Park in May and another in Upsdell Avenue on Sunday night - the police reportedly discovered a gun at the scene.  So the "webinar" (online interview) that Francis Sealey of Enfield Voices recorded with Ingrid Cranfield, a former councillor in Lower Edmonton ward - is relevant to residents in our part of the borough too, since its main theme is how to deal with the youth violence crisis.  As Ingrid explains, this is a subject that she has engaged with while  working all her adult life in "education in its broadest sense".

The "takeover" of the Labour Party in Enfield

However, before talking about gangs and youth violence, Ingrid tells the story of how she became a councillor and how she later ceased to be one - and the story is highly relevant in the light of the "coup" in the Labour group that followed the May 2018 elections.

Ingrid was elected to the council in 2010 and was intending to contest the 2014 elections.  However, she and the other two sitting councillors in Lower Edmonton unexpectedly found themselves deselected by the Labour Party members in the ward and replaced by three new candidates, all members of the same ethnic group, two of them close relatives.  Ingrid says that one of the people selected and subsequently elected did not even have functional English.  She agreed with Francis' suggestion that "safe" wards, such as Lower Edmonton, were "open to takeover".  It sounds very much as if May 2014 was round one of the process that culminated in May 2018.

The "public health" approach to gang violence

But to return to the subject of youth violence.  My use of the term "epidemic" in the opening paragraph wasn't merely a lazy cliche.  Ingrid was in agreement with Francis that to be successful the government and councils should not pursue a punitive approach, but a "public health" approach which in some ways parallels the way epidemics of infectious diseases are dealt with.  In this context they discuss the success of the "public health" approach taken towards gangs in Glasgow.

By coincidence, in Tuesday's edition of the Independent there was a long article on this very subject, under the headline Violent crime is contagious – but we know how to stop it spreading.  The article descibes the use of the "public health" approach to counter gangs in two very different cities - Chicago and Glasgow

Ingrid has some interesting observations, drawing on her role as a trustee of Every Parent and Child. She was a member of the commission that investigated the local disturbances (the so-called "riots").  She emphasises that gangs are highly hierachical and says that, though the disturbances were not started by local gangs, they did participate, and the subsequent imprisonment of gang members from the middle ranks of the of the hierarchy led to the effective collapse of those gangs.

The meeting that is referred to during the interview was held a few days earlier under the title Enfield and youth crime: Finding a way forward.

"Young people are scared..."

Here are a few phrases that I jotted down as I watched the interview:

"Causes: alienation, lack of role models, lack of purpose among young people"

"Why are young people going astray?  What is it they need?"

"No national or local strategy for dealing with youth crime

"Stop and search is not the answer"

"Tinkering around the edges, drugs are the core of the problem"

"Young people are scared"

"We have to go to them"

"Work from the bottom up"

"Put more money into youth services"

"Not enough mentoring programmes in schools, youth clubs..."

And here is the interview.

The Facebook discussion

Following the interview a discussion started in the Enfield Voices Facebook group. Francis Sealey also provided links to an earlier webinar discussions on radicalisation and gang culture:

Francis also provided links to two more newspaper articles about Karyn McCluskey and her public health approach to violence reduction in Glasgow:

Karyn McCluskey: the woman who took on Glasgow's gangs (Guardian, 19/12/2011)

Woman who helped dramatically reduce youth murders in Scotland urges London to treat violence as a 'disease' (Independent, 5/4/2018)

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