The associations of knife crime are commonly linked to the work of gangs — the idea that knives are the answer to turf wars and gang-related violence. But, over the past few years, this dynamic has changed. The BBC stated that 75% of people that have been involved with knives have no links to gangs. So what is the current situation?
It’s no secret that, in the UK, knife crime is a prevalent issue, particularly in the capital. Boys as young as ten are carrying blades because “there are situations where your fists are not going to help you. That’s why people carry knives, because they are scared.”. The fear that these young boys carry upon their shoulders is so immense that they feel there is no alternative but to protect themself with a blade. However, this form of protection tends to carry with it a worse outcome: in the 12 months leading up to March 2020, 23 children aged 17 or younger were killed at the hands of a knife.
Children and young adults are afraid to go outside alone out of fear they will be stabbed by rivals. Imagine a mother waiting up for her son, worrying that he might never walk through the door, because he lives in an area where knife crime is rife; or the young 13-year-old who has to go and visit his older brother in prison instead of playing catch with him in the garden, because he stabbed someone to death; or the shop keeper that has to sit behind protective panels all day, because he is at risk of being mugged with a blade. All of these scenarios exist. All of these scenarios can be avoided.
But what is it exactly that is failing these boys? Is it a deeply embedded form of discrimination? Is it a flaw in the education system? Or is it simply that they feel they have no other option? Some young men believe that carrying a knife is a result of not knowing their worth; others say it’s for a sense of belonging. The need for humans to find their people is innate, but, for some, that road is not so simple.
One argued reason that has been largely controversial is that the changes in knife crime numbers are a reaction to the reduction in stop and search powers for the police. Some argue that more people feel comfortable carrying a knife because the police hold less power to carry out a stop and search check without it being warranted. However, this tactic left many, predominantly people from BAME communities, feeling victimised by racial discrimination embedded within the police. Is the intimidation of a stop and search approach reason enough to enable an entire group of people to feel segregated? We don’t believe so. The consistent discrimination towards minority groups continues to isolate minority and vulnerable groups within communities, but that innate drive to belong is deep-rooted within all of us and for some, they find that sense of belonging with those engaging with knife crime.
Whatever the reason for carrying a blade may be, there is a deep-rooted cause. A lack of schooling and education around the impact of knife crime on individuals and communities results in people falling into this path. If people feel as though there is no other option for them, perhaps because a teacher did not provide them with the right support to pursue other avenues, or because the education system is tailored towards the wealthy, we cannot just expect them to choose a different path. At JAN Trust, our Against Knife Crime initiative is aimed at changing all that. We are working with BAME women and mothers to raise awareness of knife crime and the dangers associated with it, in the hopes of making a difference to those communities it impacts the most.