The tragic event on Samos Road at the beginning of November shocked us all. Ayodeji Habeeb Azeez was just 22 when he was murdered in broad daylight, a year on from the murder of teenager Michael Jonas which shook the community back in 2017. I am sure that I speak on the whole community’s behalf when I say our thoughts are with the families of Ayodeji and Michael.
Despite this tragic incident I would like to say how heartened I have been by the community’s response. In the face of such terrible circumstances the community has come together and worked so hard to rebuild that sense of society which was lost.
Firstly, I wish to thank the Samos Road community for organising a flower planting on Samos Road in memory of Ayodeji, I was very honoured to attend. And secondly, I wish to thank Louise Knox and the Stewart Fleming Primary school for hosting a community coffee morning and bulb planting with pupils, residents, the local police, Councillor Ian Dunn and myself.
However, despite the community’s fantastic work, the point remains, these murders should never have occurred in the first place and this crisis in youth violence must end.
Following on from the murder I had meetings with the police, councillors and community leaders and I raised the incident in Parliament. In my question I called on the government to recognise the knife crime crisis, end police cuts and put in place a proper plan to combat this, see here.
I also had a meeting with the Home Secretary to discuss this. However, tackling youth violence is not just about the police - we need a public health approach that joins up health, education, youth services, the home office and the justice system. Sadly, ever since 2010 these services have seen some of the most devastating cuts.
If we are truly going to tackle this, then we need a public health approach that joins up these services and adequately funds them. I spoke at length on this in Parliament and called on the government to adopt this proposal, see here.
Ultimately, we cannot bring back those we have already lost but we can act to prevent more from losing their lives. We can help prevent our vulnerable young people from turning to crime. And we can offer them, aspiration and a stake in our society. All that is needed is the funding and political will to do this.