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London's knife crime crisis: How do we tackle it?

PREVENTION: Knife crime in the capital

2018 WAS labelled 'London's bloodiest year', with homicides said to have reached a record number of over 130 with 57 % of those knife related.

Two months into 2019 and numbers have already hit double figures, and it’s clear that there is a perceptible crisis at hand.

Instinctively, I found myself contemplating the question: 'how do we stop knife crime?’. After continuously pondering, I realised I was presenting myself with the wrong question. The question 'how' often advocates the reactionary, with approaches ranging from curfews, to the accustomed stop and search demarche.

While many of these decision could potentially reduce knife crime, there were two main issues with the question I had been asking: The question of 'how' and the use of ‘stop’.

Witnessing knife crime at its peak in over a decade, the gritting truth is that there is never a guarantee of entirely stopping knife crime, due to the plethora of reasons of its very existence, and we'd be very naive in trying to conjure up overnight solutions in doing so. But the question we should all be asking is, why does knife crime happen and why is it seemingly so popular?

From 'the murder capital of Europe', Glasgow introduced the Violence Reduction Unit in 2005, which adopted a public health approach to violence, seeing numbers drop from 137 murders in 2004/05 to 61 by 2006/17 (more than 50% within a decade).

Government bodies have attempted to introduce regulations such as, curfews, banning songs from online platforms, and even as far as the infamous form 696 - a risk assessment document which often prohibits artists from performing. But do these interventions adhere directly to the reduction of knife crime? Or are they just simplistic panaceas bred of incorrect assertion fueling tension between law enforcement and underprivileged youth?

Conventionally, there has been a lot of controversy surrounding reintroduction of the Criminal Justice and Public Order act 1994 Section 60: Stop and Search – a debate I was recently involved in, and it is apparent why.

The intelligence-led policing strategy which lawfully allocates police to stop and search a person with suspicion has sparked controversy over the years.

Many of those targeted have said they felt 'discriminated’ against ‘with yet to see any solid initiatives placed that will assure procedures will be conducted fairly without the abuse of its power’, whilst others deemed it ‘a quite adequate method’.

The sus law often has a stigma attached, with the popular belief that it only targets a certain demographic, promoting racial profiling and champions the idea of inculpating, neglecting the issues of knife crime causes.

While initiatives such as the stop and search can stop a potential knife incident from transpiring, it seems to only tackle one side of the knife crime element, but it would not stop its cause.

The reason someone would pick up a knife is not merely because of the absence of stop and search but an assemblage of certain root cause/s the person is experiencing; being that pre-empt or destitution, lack of government interest, the over-representation of negativity on black youth in the media etc.

Whilst punishment of its nature is salient, the root cause of knife crime should primarily be considered when pursuing mediums to reduce knife crime, bringing light to the ‘why’ as opposed to the ‘how’, which will spawn less criminality and abates the popularity of knife crime in our communities as prevention is better than prosecution – food for thought.

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