Senior police officer: ‘absent fathers behind surge in knife crime’

5 March 2020

A leading police officer has this week recognised and spoken of the need for children to have both male and female role models as they grow up – namely, that of a father and a mother.

Lack of male role models

Jackie Sebire, assistant chief constable at Bedfordshire police and the national police lead for serious violence, has said that absent fathers and middle-class parents who work long hours are fuelling a rise in teenage knife crime. She pointed particularly to local gang leaders and drug dealers as filling a vacuum for young boys who don’t have any other father figures in their life.

Speaking at a conference of the National Police Chiefs’ Council and the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners in central London, she argued that “it’s a lack of role models” that is contributing to increased knife crime and violence. “Where you do have effective male role models, they’re potentially the drug dealers and exploiters. [Parents are also] busy working. Children in more affluent areas are left to their own devices as well.”

The need for affection from fathers

Studies have shown time and again that children benefit most from having a father and a mother, and that the children most prone to crime are fatherless boys.

Melanie Phillips writes in The Times, Deprived of the self-affirmation or affection they need from their absent fathers, such boys may turn to gangs to fill the gap. A report by the Children’s Commissioner last year estimated that 27,000 kids in England aged between ten and 15 considered themselves to be in a gang.”

A study in 2012 examining the cases of more than 10,000 sons and daughters also revealed that a cold or distant father can damage a child’s life, leaving children who feel unloved to become anxious, insecure and needy. The research shows that a father’s influence can particularly affect whether a child later drinks to excess, takes drugs or suffers mental health problems.

Not a race issue

None of this is exclusive to any one race or community. However, all too often, says Melanie Phillips, this factor is ignored at police and government level because it is deemed to be racist, or too challenging of people’s ‘lifestyle choices’.

Sheldon Thomas is a former gang member and founder of Gangsline, which provides help and support to young men and women involved in gang culture. He says that the biggest problems when tackling this kind of crime are “bad parenting, absent fathers and bad male role models.”

The importance of both parents

Surveys by the Centre for Social Justice have previously found that 89% of people agree that “if we want to have any hope of mending our broken society, family and parenting is where we’ve got to start.” 81% also believe that it is important for children to grow up living with both parents.

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