Here are the headline findings from Gary Younge’s article on ‘knife crime’:
Knife carrying on the rise?
- Between 2014 and 2016 the number of children carrying knives in London schools rose by almost 50%, while the number of knife offences in London schools rose by 26% (Metropolitan police 2017).
- Centre for Public Safety: In London, ‘the number of victims of youth violence and knife crime injuries have been on a steady if fairly gradual upward trend, and are now back to where they were five years ago‘.
‘Knife crime’ in the news
- The term ‘knife crime’ has only recently entered popular use:
- 2000 – only mention of knife crime in national press and London Evening Standard
- 2003 – 24 mentions
- 2008 – 2,602 mentions
- Post 2008 – huge decrease in mentions
Why does this matter?
- ‘These statistics bear only the vaguest correlation to the frequency of knife crime – which peaked in 2011, by which time the media had begun to lose interest’.
Why is the reporting so far from the truth?
- ‘National data on the number of children and teens killed by knives in any given year is not publicly available’.
Ignorance isn’t bliss
- ‘As a nation we are conscious that there is something out there known as “knife crime”, but as yet we lack any coherent or enduring national response‘.
- ‘Without accessible official data, or well-informed discussion, our understanding of the problem is cobbled together from a mixture of personal assumptions, media representation and political projection’.
Knife crime as a social construct
- ‘Knife crime” is a construct. It does not simply mean, as one might reasonably expect, crimes committed with knives. It denotes a certain type of crime committed by a certain type of criminal in a certain kind of context: It is a crime committed by evil kids – not kids who do evil things, but kids who are quite simply evil’.
Young black male thugs?
- Youth Justice Board research of 32 London boroughs, illustrated that when other relevant social and economic factors were taken into account, race and ethnicity had no significance at all. Crime is more prevalent in poor areas, and since black people are disproportionately poor, they are disproportionately affected – as perpetrators and victims. It’s class – not race or culture – that is the defining issue.
- Ministry of Justice: the number of young people entering the criminal justice system for the first time nationwide is at the lowest rate for a decade.
- The proportion of children who say they have tried drugs halved between 2001 and 2014 and those between the age of 11 and 15 who had tried alcohol is now at its lowest since the National Health Service started asking in 1988.
- The Metropolitan police last year revealed that the overwhelming majority of children and young people who carry knives are not gang members. Many are just scared and carry them for protection.
- ‘Take the construct as a whole and you have the ingredients for a tabloid-induced moral panic, in which young black men, who reside outside our basic moral norms, roam crime-infested, hostile cities in pursuit of hapless victims’.
- According to a recent Unison report, between 2010 and 2016 £387m was slashed from youth services; between 2012 and 2016 a total of 603 youth clubs were closed.
- Last year, research by the thinktank CentreForum revealed that these mental health services turn away, on average, 23% of the children referred to them for treatment by GPs, teachers and others.