London’s knife problem: The rise of violence on the capital’s streets

London’s knife problem: The rise of violence on the capital’s streets

Violent knife crime has risen shockingly in the past year, with offences in London up more than 34% since 2016. According to new data obtained by the BBC, knife crime is increasing nationally yet police are prosecuting fewer cases. These figures show the extent of the problem, with this ‘epidemic’ worsened by cuts to community police numbers and budgets.

The effects of soaring knife crime are evident for Londoners, with knives becoming part and parcel of everyday life in our capital city. From a young age, kids are growing up around knives, with studies suggesting 50% of London’s young know someone who carries a knife. The age of those involved is shocking, with over 1,200 young people stabbed in London last year and the average age of moped criminals – who often carry knives – only 15 years old.

Knife crime is changing people’s lives for the worse, and these figures suggest things are not getting better. The BBC spoke to one man who claimed he carries a knife for protection, as it is a “part of life now, you have to keep a knife with you” in case of attack. Obviously, this increases the number of blades on London’s streets and undoubtedly increases the possibility of violence, but the man responded by suggesting he would rather have one than not, as “everyone else is carrying knives”.

The question of how to tackle the epidemic of knife crime is one that the police and government have been debating for many years. The Metropolitan Police have changed their controversial stop-and-search policy after tension about the tactics employed, and report to have received a 60% decline in complaints as a result. The Met Police Commissioner Cressida Dick has also stated that tackling violent crime is her “priority” and the stop-and-search method provides an “invaluable tool” in ridding London’s streets of violent weapons – both guns and knives.

However, this short-term approach is clearly failing, as small interventions without proper funding from central government will never be able to effectively tackle the issue. Cuts to public services across the UK have crippled local communities, in policing, schools and education, youth centres and health – all of which play an important role in decreasing violent crime in the community. It is no surprise that many young people have become involved in or been affected by knife crime when you observe the cuts to local services in their communities. Indeed, Sadiq Khan has recently outlined a new proposal pressuring Ofsted to judge schools on how they root out knife crime, aiming to tackle the issue in schools.

The issue of knife crime is clearly a large one, and there will be no quick fix to stop it. However, as violent crime soars – with an incident involving a blade occurring every 14 minutes – something has to be done to tackle the widespread nature of violent knife crime, especially in London where much of the problem is focused.

 

Cian Fox