THE legalisation of cannabis and the dangers of gang culture were issues discussed when West Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner met with Bradford Councillors.

Mark Burns Williamson appeared before Bradford Council’s Corporate Scrutiny Committee at a meeting on Thursday night, and spoke about why many young people were falling into the grip of gangs.

With knife crime rising in the UK, and stabbing deaths regularly in the news, Councillors asked how serious the situation in Bradford was.

Mr Burns-Williamson said: “There has been a sharp increase in knife crime and violent crime in the country. In West Yorkshire it has been different than in London, it isn’t as bad, but we can’t take anything for granted.

“Why is this happening? I wish I had the answer. I suspect it is down to a number of things. I think school exclusion plays its part. I think re-offending plays a part. You also have to question the role of social media.

“When we have cuts to policing does that help? I think not.

Hundreds of Bradford children linked to organised crime gangs, according to report into child criminal exploitation

“I spent my youth is places like the YMCA playing table tennis. I’m not saying all kids want to engage in activities like this, but there are less and less of these places. A lot have closed down. Austerity has led to cuts to services for young people.

“It is not all down to that, but I think it plays a big role.”

Councillor Simon Cooke (Cons, Bingley Rural) said: “The idea of gang culture has been around for decades, but we need to look at what is turning it from being a ‘Just William’ type of thing for young people to being a form of organised crime.

“Organised crime plays a huge role in all of this. That’s why I think we should legalise cannabis, but that’s another issue altogether.

“We need to think how this drug business is getting hold of and grooming our young people into a life of crime.”

Mr Burns-Williamson said: “I’m asking these questions, and I’m backing the Government looking at its drugs policy. Unfortunately they keep knocking it into the long grass. The government is making a mess of this whole Brexit situation and that is taking up most of their time.

“There are more kids being excluded from schools, and the government need to look very closely at their inclusion policies.

“If we’re not careful we will create a generation of young people lost to the system.

“When they are not in schools they are vulnerable to being targeted by gangs, and they can become perpetrators as well as victims of crime. Soon they get roped into gang activity.”

When asked why young people felt the need to carry knives, he said: “We need to dispel the myth that young people believe - that they will be safer if they carry a knife. In reality if they carry a knife they are six times more likely to be stabbed by their own knife.”