Youth knife crime in London has soared and a Post investigation has shown knife attacks on under-25s in Barking and Dagenham have increased by 178 per cent in five years, one of the steepest rises in the capital.
“There’s a huge amount of pressure to carry weapons to protect yourself,” says Jermaine, explaining the reality for some young people.
“What you have to understand is that these young men and women are in a war, and the whole aim of war is to survive. They have enemies that want to take their lives and will take their lives given the opportunity.
“So carrying a knife is an essential item if you’re caught up in street and gang violence.”
Yeah, yeah, Glen Frey sang about that.
“Young people are being groomed and manipulated into joining gangs, thinking there’s going to be a better outcome than there would be if they went to university or college, or studied hard at school, took GCSEs, so you can progress and make a career for yourself,” says Jermaine.
“The alternatives to that lifestyle are just not strong enough at the moment. There’s a lack of opportunity, there’s a lack of people caring, there’s a lack of government listening.”
Why is it always up to someone else to provide for these people? They can work, after all. Take this chap, himself:
He has done a lot of work at schools and colleges, and on the Gascoigne estate in Barking, and says his driving passion for mentoring work comes from own tough childhood in Newham.
See? There are lucrative professions out there.
Jermaine believes sport, art and music can be powerful tools to help teenagers find an outlet for their anger and build self-esteem and confidence, and his organisation makes use of outreach activities to nurture talent.
The youth worker says many young people feel society has given up on them – with frequent cuts to youth sectors, the closing down of youth centres, “extortionate rates” to go to university and the lack of jobs.
He called for a deeper look at the social problems driving youth violence as a first step to tackling the issues.
And now I’m thinking of a different song…
“The government are not doing enough and don’t care about the people that come from these communities,” he said.
“If you care where is the evidence? Where’s the resources, where’s the love, where’s the outreach work.
“How many politicians have you seen on these estates talking to young people and encouraging and inspiring young people? They don’t meet the people from these communities to understand what is happening.”
No, sensibly enough, they stay as far away from them as they can. Who’d blame them?
And for once, no-one’s buying what Jermaine is selling:
The leader of the council has called for more powers for local authorities to penalise people who carry knives.
Cllr Darren Rodwell said Barking and Dagenham Council is working hard to educate young people about the dangers of carrying knives, but called for greater freedom to take tough action against those who do.
“We will continue to make a case for the government to give local councils more powers to address persistent offenders,” he said.
“For example, where they are council tenants, we should be able to evict them from our estates.”
That’s a start.