Campaign to stop youths carrying knives launched at Whitechapel after Syed Islam stabbing
PUBLISHED: 23:44 20 April 2017 | UPDATED: 19:42 25 April 2017
Hundreds of people turned up for a vigil and rally against knife crime in Whitechapel tonight following the death of 20-year-old Syed Jamanoor Islam who was stabbed outside his east London home.
Now police could soon be resuming ‘stop and search’ operations on the streets of the East End following the stabbing outside Syed’s home.
He died cradled in his mother’s arms in hospital an hour after the incident at Wager Street in Mile End on April 11.
Rally organisers have launched a campaign tonight for a task force of police and the local authority to stop youths carrying knives.
The Met’s Tower Hamlets borough commander Sue Williams has told officers to make searches where they know or suspect youths are carrying weapons, it has emerged.
The move is a reversal of the Met’s previous policy of searches only when arrests are made.
“I have told my officers that you will ‘stop and search’ where you have intelligence or information where it’s a hotspot area for knives,” Cmdr Williams told the rally at Whitechapel’s Altab Ali Park.
“We know who the habitual knife-carriers are, who’ve been caught more than once or twice a year. We target them because they’re not afraid of carrying knives.”
She added: “At the top of my list is safeguarding young people from violence, knife crime, gun crime and street gangs.”
Syed’s parents broke the silence of their week of mourning to address the rally and head the campaign to stop youngsters carrying knives.
His father Abdul Muket said: “My son was a decent, innocent boy this time last week. We want all the community to come together united to stop knife crime in London.”
The campaign through schools and youth centres is being set up by Syed’s uncle, Jitu Choudhury, for more parent involvement in their children’s activities.
“I have lost my nephew,” he told the rally. “We don’t want others lost to this community at the point of a knife. So we propose a task force set up to stop knife crime.
“Youngsters often don’t know the dangers of carrying a knife which can do the same damage as a gun.”
He called for tougher police powers to stop youths in the street on suspicion of carrying concealed weapons.
“I know the Muslim community is nervous about ‘stop and search’,” he added.
“But the police should have the rights and power to search for knives.
“Carrying a knife should be treated like carrying a gun.”
Religious leaders from the Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths as well as politicians such as Tower Hamlets executive mayor John Biggs spoke of unity.
The mayor said: “I stand here in sorrow having met another family who’ve suffered an unnecessary, grievous and pointless loss. I have met too many families who have lost loved pones, usually for unnecessary, bad reasons—usually about knives.”
Deputy Mayor for community safety Sharia Khatun, a family friend whose brother was Sayed’s neighbour in Mile End, said: “I consider them to be my family. Their loss is my loss—the community’s loss. I saw Syed at my brother’s house when he came to play with my nephew as a young child and knew him as he grew up.”
Rallying speeches were made from both sides of the council. Opposition Cllr Rabina Khan said: “We all have a shared responsibility as parents, as community leaders and politicians and as young people. We no longer want knife crime and violence on our streets.”
Syed, who went to Swanlea Secondary in Whitechapel and later to Tower Hamlets College in Poplar, wanted to go to university to study architecture, his mother said.
But his life was cut short outside the house when he and his friends were approached by another group. He died an hour later.
Three teenagers have since been arrested in connection with his death.