Young people need to know that “the police are on their side”, the Mayor of London has said.

Knife crime in the capital approached record levels last year, with more than 15,000 recorded offences. Almost half of these were carried out by teenagers or younger children, according to police data.

Sadiq Khan gave a speech at the Pan London Youth Event at Alexandra Palace in Haringey yesterday before meeting young people

Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, he said strong relationships between youngsters and police officers were vital in tackling violent crime.

He said: “I want young Londoners to realise that the police are on their side, and police officers are human beings.

“They care about young people, and they care about London.”

Around 4,000 students, aged 11 to 18, came from across London to attend the careers and sports day at Alexandra Palace yesterday. The event, organised by the Haringey Police and Community Amateur Boxing Club, has been running for 12 years, with mayoral funding for the past four.

Students had the opportunity to speak to career advisors, including from the police and armed forces, and to take part in sporting activities including football, rugby, and boxing.

The Mayor also emphasised the importance of investing in services to tackle the root causes of violent crime.

Mr Khan has invested £45 million in youth services through the Young Londoners' Fund, launched last year to support education, sport and cultural activites for disadvantaged youngsters.

He said: “I’m not excusing criminality, but it’s about lack of opportunity, social discrimination, inequality, and mental health issues. It’s really important that we deal with the causes of violent crime.”

But Mr Khan said he was also “tough on violent crime”, emphasising the role of targeted stop-and-search powers in policing.

The Mayor said the roll-out of body cameras to record police interactions with suspects during stop-and-search was important for maintaining trust in the force.

He said: “I want young Londoners to have confidence that when the police use stop-and-search there are checks and balances in place.

“I don’t want young Londoners to feel they’re stopped and searched wrongly today – because that means that tomorrow they won’t come forward to report a crime.”

Deputy Assistant Police Commissioner Laurence Taylor said the event aimed to show young people that pursuing careers and sport is “a much better route than carrying a knife”.

The police chief said changing young people’s attitudes to police officers was vitally important.

He said: “When young people see us as human beings who happen to wear a uniform that is really good. It breaks down barriers.

"We’re not here to cause young people problems. We want to stop them getting into difficulties.”