The lack of male role models is a key factor behind the increase in crime on knives and gang violence, a senior police officer suggested.
Jackie Sebire, deputy general manager of Bedfordshire, said that some young people who do not have the “protective factor” of a father figure instead look at the drug dealers and gangsters.
He said it was “too easy” to blame the police cuts, social media and drugs.
The government said that the first intervention projects were at the center of its efforts.
ACC Sebire, which is conducting serious violence for the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC), said the absence of father figures affects children in affluent areas and those from disadvantaged backgrounds.
“We don’t talk enough” about the problem, he added.
A report released last year estimated that approximately 27,000 children in England considered themselves in a gang.
However, a much lower number of 6,560 children were actually known by teams that offended young people or by children’s services involved in gangs.
Sheldon Thomas, founder of Gangsline, which provides support to young people involved or at risk of group activities, said that “bad parents, absent fathers and bad male role models” are among the biggest problems in tackling group violence.
Thomas, who talks about his experience as a gang member in the 1970s, said that if parents don’t spend time with their children, then their son “is more likely to end up on the wrong track.”
ACC Sebire said: “Where you have positive male role models, they are potentially drug dealers, exploiters or organized crime networks – they become the positive male role model.”
The “worst thing,” he said, was when both parents refused to attend a police station after their children were arrested.
“This is for me, one of the saddest things I see … because in reality them [the parents] It can not be bothered. “
But speaking to reporters at the Westminster NPCC conference this week, ACC Sebire recognized a number of factors that contributed to the problem of knife crime.
In 2018, the Ministry of Interior said that drugs, and in particular an increase in the supply of cocaine, were the main “engine” behind the increase in serious violence.
Other possible factors were the growth of social media and an increase in school exclusions and children being treated.
But there were only two passing references to “role models” in the department’s 114-page strategic document and no mention of how the absence of such paternal figures could lead young people to drug trafficking and violent crime.
Discussions about ways to reduce violent crime have also tended to focus on other issues, such as resources, arrest and search powers and convictions.
It was largely left to youth workers, mentors and former gang members to highlight the importance of positive role models, which is why comments from Jackie Sebire, a former Scotland Yard detective with over 25 years of experience in police, they are so significant.
Patrick Green, CEO of the anti-knife charity Ben Kinsella Trust, said that ACC Sebire was “absolutely right” to cite the role of positive male models.
“When this is absent, kids tend to be more vulnerable to negative influences.”
However, he added that there is “no single response” and stressed the need to tackle other root causes such as poverty, deprivation and inequality.
A government spokesman highlighted plans to recruit additional police officers over the next three years and initiatives to address the root causes of serious violence.
They added: “We recognize the role that role models of trust must play and to keep young people away from crime and to prevent young people from being exploited by gangs, we are investing heavily in community-based early intervention projects.”