Knife and gun crime

11th November 2008

One weekend in May 2008 and five people are killed. Three stabbed and two shot. Four others survive stabbing and gun shots.

Is this the face of modern Britain?

In the same month, DAAP organises a screening of the film 'Hip Hop Opera' on a local estate as part of the National Tackling Drugs Week to raise awareness about knife and gun crime amongst young people. The converted turn up to watch as do the very young. All sit mesmerised for two hours as lives familiar to them are played out on a screen in front of them. No one wants to leave the film as they had promised to give an interview to Channel 4 News filming outside.

They listen with sadness to local parents who have lost their children to gun crime and to the producer of the film 'Hip Hop Opera' Raymond Stevenson from the 'Don't Trigger Campaign' at the end of the screening. In that moment they pledge that they will not allow this to happen to their families and their communities.

Has the message got home?

Knife and gun crime is not a new phenomenon as the numerous families who have lost their loved ones will tell you.

Back in 2004, BBC's Panorama programme revealed that children as young as 7 years of age were carrying knives.

The British Crime Survey in 2005 suggested that the number of muggers using knives had increased dramatically from 24,290 to 42,020 - a rise of 73 per cent. There were 91 serious attacks between May and June, 19 of them fatal. The number of people convicted of carrying a knife or blade in England and Wales rose from 3,511 in 2000 to 5,784 in 2004. The Youth Justice Board announced that carrying a knife was the most common offence among children excluded from school. And a think-tank released figures suggesting that as many as 57,900 young people could have been stabbed over the past year.

Since then gun and knife crime amongst young people is constantly in the news, especially crime that takes place in London.

Over fifty teenagers have died as a result of violent incidents in London alone in the past two years. Many killed by other young people.

One thing is clear. This is a frighteningly growing phenomenon.

Youth culture, street gangs and connection with drugs are just some of the issues highlighted by professionals as causal factors. More recently the focus has been on deprivation, family cohesion and self identity.

The challenge is to implement solutions, not to have endless debates about causes.

The solution as always is to acknowledge the problem and the nature of the problem, no matter how uncomfortable it might seem. Black young people are disproportionally being killed... by other Black young people. This fact must inform the solutions.

We have to work with the majority of the young people who do not get involved with weapons to empower them to empower themselves and their friends to take a stand.

We have to work with those who without any conscience or thought use knives and guns to kill others. We have to work to take them out of society... to enable them to find and connect with their conscience again.

The Government's response is The Youth Crime Action Plan 2008 published in July to tackle youth crime and to address the growing street weapon culture.

Public Policy Exchange, in association with the Centre for Parliamentary Studies organised The Young People and Knife Crime Summit: Tackling Street Weapon Culture Through Partnership on 30th October. This was the mere price of £300.00 per delegate.

Poonam Sattee from DAAP attended the summit

It was a YOUNG PEOPLE and knife crime summit - but where are the young people?

Actually two youths were present - in a room where less than half the capacity was filled. The young person who asked this very same question was dismissed by the chair until the audience demanded that her question be treated with the same respect as everyone else's questions.

Is this not one of the root causes? That the very people who are being discussed are absent? Although one speaker stated that consultation with young people takes place, I wonder how much of it is actually listened to.

The focus of the summit was crime prevention and one interesting tool is the anonymous texting service to report any young person in possession of a knife. However this is not a free service!

The RAP representatives gave me hope that interventions do work and highlighted that successful methods are not always the most expensive. The importance of positive role models within the community for young people was emphasized – not the David Beckham's or the Thierry Henry's of this world. But down to earth, home grown superstars in our community that our young people can look up to and be supported by to constantly reaffirming that alternatives to knife culture exist... It's not "cool" to carry a knife as the latest Kiss100 radio campaign has stated, " Young people need to be empowered so they can make their own decisions and not feel like they are missing out on being "one of the crowd".

Back to top