UK Gripped by Knife Crime Epidemic; Are Businesses to Blame?

Supermarket chain ASDA has pledged to remove all single kitchen knives from sale amid concerns about their use in spiraling violent crime. The decision comes as 41 people have been killed in stabbings in the UK just this year. In 2019 in the UK, knife crime has increased by eight per cent and violent crimes by 19 per cent. The number of admissions to hospital for assault involving a sharp instrument have increased by 15 per cent. Last year alone there were 1,299 stabbings in London, according to official statistics from the Met Police. In 2017-18, there were 137 knife offences for every 100,000 people in the capital. 2018 was London’s bloodiest year in almost a decade as the murder toll reached a staggering 134.

Single kitchen knives are the most regularly stolen items in stores, says ASDA. This has prompted them to stop the sale of such knives by the end of April. However, the store said it would continue to sell multipacks of knives. It is illegal to sell knives to under 18s, unless they have a folding blade less than 3in (7.6cm) long. But in Scotland, 16 to 18-year-olds may buy cutlery and kitchen knives.

Nick Jones, Asda senior vice-president, said the company had “a responsibility to support the communities we serve”.

“Whilst we have already taken steps to restrict the sale of knives to ensure that they do not fall into the wrong hands, we felt there was more we could be doing to support those looking at how to bring this issue under control”, he said.

ASDA was one of several chains to sign a voluntary agreement in 2016 to display and package knives securely after a man was stabbed with a knife from a Poundland shop. Last year, Poundland announced that it would stop selling kitchen knives altogether.

After looking at all this information, it does beg the question, to what extent are businesses responsible for enabling knife crime? Ultimately, supermarkets cannot be held accountable for what people choose to buy, nor how they choose to use it. Whilst businesses may believe that they have a responsibility to support the communities that they serve, is this not a personal responsibility that cannot and should not be taken away from individuals? After all you might not be able to buy a single knife anymore, but you can still pick up a whole set.

Moreover, a lack of police resources and less patrolling officers is certain to have an impact. The number of police officers in England and Wales has fallen by over 20,000 between March 2010 and March 2018, due to cuts in government spending on public services. Chief Constable Bill Skelly, National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) lead for crime recording and statistics, said: “Rising crime, increased terrorist activity and fewer police officers have put serious strain on the policing we offer to the public.”

So, while businesses may have a certain responsibility to prevent knives falling into the wrong hands, we must also look to our local crime response to ensure safety on the streets.