Skip to main content
CampaignsEqualityHousingEnvironmentMigrationSupport Our WorkEducationRaceCultureWorkGlobalVacancies

Inform on your kids or get evicted: Is this really how we tackle knife crime?

The eviction threat by Barking and Dagenham Council leader Darren Rodwell - a rising Labour politician - is not only cruel: it's bound to misfire. 

June 09 2023, 07.47am

Darren Rodwell, the Labour leader of Barking and Dagenham Council, made headlines this week with threats to launch a policy that would see young people and their families evicted from their homes if they failed to report crimes. 

Naturally, a first instinct may be to call this thinking naive. Surely he has misunderstood ‘what works’? But we err on the side of seeing this proposal for what it is: yet another tool of social control and state violence. 

It is of no surprise that this kind of tactic comes as political parties double down on ‘law and order’. Labour are building their approach under Sir Keir Starmer, who as DPP in the days after the 2011 uprisings, led the charge for 24-hour courts, fast tracking young people through the justice system and criminalising Black communities. 

With that in mind, we choose not to believe they have misunderstood the solution, but to accept that their end goal just looks very different to ours. Ours, one of harm-free communities in which young lives are lived joyfully and into older age. Theirs, one where the current conditions of social control are upheld, forcing certain young people into vulnerable childhoods and vindictive punishment instead of prioritising long-term safety and healing. With this end goal in frame, we begin to consider this policy as one of the many tools which serve that bigger picture.

As some of the many community organisers advocating for healing, we know that coercion is not a long term solution to harm in our communities, but we hear on the ground that it is commonplace across policing: using family, partners and livelihoods against people to secure convictions. 

We know that threatening young people with eviction will not reduce knife crime, but we know the opportunity to build stronger information sharing relationships across multi-agency services can build the databases key to data driven profiling and surveillance. 

We know that “bad parenting” is not to blame for harm, but we know it allows the State to distance itself from responsibility, and supports the construction of the ‘uncivilised’ (code: Black) family who ‘fail’ to meet ‘traditional’ norms.

Forcing more fear into the lives of our young people is not going to build the strong community infrastructures we need or keep our children safe

We know that moving young people labelled as a ‘problem’ does not eradicate a social issue, but we know there is a commitment to cleansing areas of working class people as part of gentrification. And we know the solutions to harm sit within addressing the root causes of inequality, but that maintaining inequitable structures supports a powerful minority to reap significant benefits from society. We asked a young person to consider Rodwell’s policy, and his reflections speak clearly to matters of inequality:

“With the ‘cost of living’ crisis some people face today, you would think Labour,  who claim to be  ‘built on equality, social justice and compassion’ have a better approach to a crisis like knife crime. As a youth who has grown up on a council estate where most families struggle to make ends meet, which can fuel violence as young children might get mixed up in things to help provide for their families, I don’t believe it’s a good idea to threaten to evict families if children ‘do not inform’. It’s absolute bollocks, a very harsh approach. Knife crime can affect working class areas, which will put working class families in the red zone for eviction based on a ‘suspicion’ of somebody knowing ‘something’.”

Ultimately, we know that forcing more fear into the lives of our young people is not going to build the strong community infrastructures we need or keep our children safe, but we know fear has been a long standing tool of oppressive governance, helping to make our environment more and more hostile. 

Rodwell’s proposal is a racist and classist endeavour, set to target certain communities. Forced evictions, described by the UN as gross violations of a range of internationally recognised human rights, will only bring more violence into young people’s lives. The process of identifying which tenants are ‘involved’ will no doubt build on the practice of discriminatory databases, which list young people based on the problematic frame of ‘“risk” and “association”, helped by or mirroring dangerous tools such as the London ‘Gangs’ Matrix, or Manchester’s new Youth Watchlist.

If Rodwell is not intentionally operating as part of the ever expanding authoritarianism that we currently see building across leading parties, then he is certainly lacking in any critical thought. In which case, we direct him to some (not all) of those doing the beautiful and much-needed, re-imagining work that many should learn from. Like 4Front Project, who are ‘building a powerful youth-led movement to transform the way peace and justice are understood by centering healing rather than punishment’. The multiple organisations involved in Liberty’s Holding Our Own guide, which shares non-policing solutions to harm between young people. Or Healing Justice London, who work with communities surviving state and systemic oppression, building towards futures rooted in dignity, safety and belonging, free from intimate, interpersonal and structural violence. 

It is organisations like these, and the individuals and communities who lead and guide them, that we should continually look to for hope.