As another teenager is killed on a Northampton street we ask: What needs to happen now?
Two teenagers have been murdered just one month apart. We ask community leaders what is happening in Northampton and what they think needs to be done?
By Sarah Ward
Just 32 days after the death of Fred Shand, the 16-year-old killed as he made his way home from school, another teenager has been murdered.
The streets surrounding the University of Northampton were cordoned off yesterday with a heavy police presence in the area after a 19 year old was murdered on Sunday evening, dying in the road after receiving a stab wound to the neck.
NN Journal understands the teenager, who has not been named by police, was a student who has been living on the Waterside campus.
Four teenagers, two males aged 19, together with another male and female, both 18, were arrested in the hours following the attack and remain in police custody.
There is no suggestion the killings of Fred Shand and the unnamed student are linked in any way, but a second murder within weeks of Fred’s death in Kingsthorpe, has caused widespread concern.
We spoke with the authorities and community leaders about Northampton’s knife crime problem and asked what needs to happen now?
Police and crime commissioner
Conservative politician Stephen Mold has been the county’s police and crime commissioner since 2016. Part of his role is to be the voice for residents, while he also has the power to hire and fire the chief constable. Yesterday following the killing he said he would find more resources to put towards tackling knife crime.
A statement provided by his office said:
“I’m deeply saddened by the loss of yet another young life on the streets of Northamptonshire.
“This is a dreadful tragedy for another family that is now mourning a loved one - my heart goes out to them.
“I’m thinking, too, about the police officers and staff who are working hard to investigate this incident and I hope that their presence in the area is reassuring to local people and to the wider University community. The police are moving quickly and I understand that four suspects are already in custody.
“Knife crime and serious violence is a matter of priority for the chief constable and Northamptonshire Police. I know the chief constable is committed to doing everything he can to reduce the number of incidents and create safer communities. I hold him to account for his work and I will be challenging him to go as far and as fast as he can to tackle knife crime in Northamptonshire.
“There is still a long way to go, and I have already told the chief constable that I will find more funding to invest in effective strategies to tackle violence and knife crime. I am also now responsible under the new serious violence duty for bringing together local agencies in structures to ensure they work together to tackle serious violence.
“As a community, we will only get a grip of knife crime by working together. Robust enforcement and proactive policing are vital, but just one part of the picture. It will take partner organisations to jointly intervene early, to educate through youth and social provision, create a comfortable environment and deter people from criminality. Enforcement alone will never be enough.
“One of the reasons I am so strongly committed to strengthening neighbourhood policing is because I believe that building engagement with local people and collaborating with partners is the only way we will create stronger communities.
“The investigation into this tragic death is ongoing and I hope anyone who has information that can support police at this time will get in touch.”
Knife crime is one of Northamptonshire police’s four priority areas. The force, which is led by chief constable Nick Adderley, is rated as requiring improvement by government inspectors.
Yesterday the investigating officer detective inspector Simon Barnes put out a statement which said:
“First of all, I want to express my sincere condolences to the family of this young man. Specially trained officers are supporting them during this awful time and I want to reassure them, and the local community, that we are committed to bringing those responsible to justice.
“A lot of work has taken place overnight to effect these four arrests and detectives will begin questioning them today.
“In the meantime, I would appeal to anyone who witnessed what happened or anyone with information to come forward. No matter how small you think your piece of information is, please give us a call and let us know about it.
“Whilst we do believe this incident to be a targeted attack, there will understandably be concern in the local area and neighbourhood policing officers will be carrying out extra patrols to reassure people. Anyone with any concerns is more than welcome to approach one of these officers who will be happy to help.”
Last month, following Fred Shand’s death, we asked to view the force’s knife crime strategy. We were told that while the force did have a strategy it was an ‘internal-only document’. When we challenged this we were told we would have to request it via the police’s freedom of information department as certain sections would need to be redacted.
The local authority
The unitary council has a responsibility for community safety and along with the police coordinate the community safety partnership meetings. However these quarterly meetings happen in private and the minutes are not made available. Annually the partnership provides a report with a summary of what initiatives have taken place during the course of the year.
In the latest report which was presented to the council’s health and wellbeing board last month, there was an overview of some activities that had taken place last May as part of the two-week focus on knife crime which involved the knife angel touring the county. There were also knife amnesties, information events for parents.
However there is not a current community safety partnership strategy for the west of the county. The council said earlier this month it was due to publish its strategy for 2023-25 in the coming weeks.
It did provide us with an overarching ‘plan on a page’ which listed priorities, including knife crime, but this did not have any detail of how any of the outcomes may be achieved or measured.
Conservative Cllr David Smith is the cabinet member on West Northamptonshire Council responsible for community safety.
“This is desperately sad news, and we would like to pass on our condolences to the young man’s friends, family, and anyone else affected.
“We’re conscious that this will be worrying for the community, and it’s at times like this when we really need to unite and support each other.
“I would like to reassure everyone that we are working closely with police colleagues to do all we can to improve safety on our streets and we will outline more on this in due course.”
A ward councillor
Cllr Emma Roberts is a Labour ward councillor for Far Cotton, where Sunday’s murder took place.
She said the immediate thoughts and assistance must go to the murdered student’s family, but there also needed to now follow on a wider conversation about what was being done by police, the local authority and others to try and tackle knife crime.
“I don’t know what the strategy is and I think that is an issue. I don’t think the strategic action is being shared with us as councillors, as conduits to the residents. Six weeks ago the police sergeant in my area and my inspector who I had a direct line to changed - so I do not have my direct line anymore.
“I don’t feel like there is a strategy but I also wonder what the wider context of this is. Why now in this stretch of time [two murderers]? We have not had consecutive stories like this for ages.
“So was the problem bigger and we weren’t hearing about it? Was this stuff happening but on a smaller scale, injured but not fatal and we weren’t hearing about it?”
She said police officers in her Far Cotton ward had been ‘massively stretched’ in recent times. She said she hoped the murder did not cause the relationship between the residents and university to worsen, as it had improved in recent years.
As he was sitting yesterday with Fred Shand’s teachers to finalise details for the funeral which will take place at his All Saints Church, Father Oliver Coss heard about the murder just outside the nearby university campus.
He said he felt there was a ‘lack of narrative’ being given to the community about what was happening regarding knife crime and street violence and that there was possibly an ‘innocence’ about what the problems, the solutions and whether they are effective.
“I think we have a v systems based approach to policing at the moment.” He said that he felt these systems stood in the way of community policing.
A source informed us that senior staff arrived at the campus on Sunday evening in the aftermath of the killing. And yesterday the university chaplain was on hand to support students who wanted to talk. The university also has its own team of police community support officers who dedicate their work hours to policing the campus. NN Journal understands at least one PCSO was on hand in the immediate aftermath of Sunday’s murder.
The university is run by vice chancellor Anne-Marie Kilday, however she remained silent yesterday. When we contacted the university with some questions we were given the following from a university spokesman: “Our community is deeply saddened by this news, and we will be doing all we can to support staff and students while assisting police with their enquiries over the coming days.”
Anyone with information that could be useful should call Northamptonshire police on 101 and quote incident number 23000244815. Video footage can also be uploaded here
*Following the arrests this has become an active enquiry so please do not comment on anything to do with those who may have been arrested
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