Five dead in six days as stabbings surge

Knife-edge: Almost 15,000 knife crimes were committed in London in the past year — the highest ever number.

Do statistics give us the wrong message? A week of violence has sparked panic about a wave of knife attacks in London, but some think we are failing to see the full picture.

“I heard his last words. He said ‘oh no’ holding his stomach, and then he just fell on to the pavement. I didn’t hear him scream. He looked so helpless.”

This passer-by witnessed the last moments of Malcolm Mide-Madariola’s life. The 17-year-old was stabbed to death outside Clapham South Tube station in south London on Friday. His murder was one of five fatal stabbings in the capital in less than a week.

Last Wednesday, 38-year-old Rocky Djelal was found dead near a children’s playground in Southwark Park. The next day Jay Hughes, one of the capital’s youngest victims at 15, was stabbed at a fast-food shop in Bellingham. A 22-year-old man died in south-east London on Sunday afternoon, and last night, a 16-year-old was stabbed to death in Tulse Hill.

“This has to stop,” declared Labour MP Ellie Reeves.

There have now been 118 homicides in the capital this year, including 73 stabbings and 12 shootings. That is more than in all of 2017 excluding terror attacks.

Knife crime in London has risen by 15% in the last year. Across the country, the number of 10 to 17-year-olds carrying knives is up 16%.

Hundreds of extra police officers have been deployed to cope with the violence.

But the statistics used in the media do not always tell the full story.

Journalist Gary Younge accuses tabloids and politicians of “mistaking London for all of Britain, and mistakenly assuming that race, not class, is the only common thread.”

In reality, roughly half of fatal teenage stabbings take place outside the capital, and over the last 40 years the vast majority of knife violence has been amongst white people. Most teenagers who carry knives are not involved in gang crime.

In April, it was widely reported that more people are murdered in London than New York City. This is only true when counting the figures for February and March 2018, but not January. It also ignores the fact that New York saw more than twice as many murders as London in 2017.

So, do statistics give us the wrong message?

Wild west London

Not at all, say some. Looking at statistics can give us a better understanding of the trends in knife crime outside of our own limited experience. They are useful tools if we weigh the figures against each other to get a full and balanced picture. In complicated, emotive situations, the plain facts are what we must rely on to tell us what is going on and to shape our response.

It’s not that simple, respond others. It is easy for people to manipulate statistics to further their own agenda, as we can see by the way knife crime is often portrayed as a solely black, London-based problem. These generalised numbers encourage us to ignore interlinking factors to do with class, race and community that can shape how a person is affected by knife crime.

You Decide

  1. Are you personally worried about rising knife crime?
  2. Are statistics the best way to learn about an issue?

Activities

  1. Research the legal punishments for carrying a knife and being involved in knife crime in the UK. Produce a poster explaining the laws around knives and include statistics about rising knife crime.
  2. Imagine you are leaving your house with a friend and they show you that they are carrying a knife because they are worried about being attacked. Get into pairs and discuss what the best way to respond to this situation is. After five minutes, make a plan as a class about how one should react.

Some People Say...

“No excuses: there is never a reason to carry a knife.”

Sadiq Khan

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Five people were stabbed in London in six days last week. The victims were Rocky Djelal, 38, Jay Hughes, 15, Malcolm Mide-Madariola, 17, an as yet unidentified 22-year-old man and an unnamed 16-year-old boy. Two men have been arrested over the stabbing of the unnamed man in Anerley, south-east London. Overall, incidents of knife crime in the capital are up 15% on last year.
What do we not know?
What is driving the rise in knife crime. It is likely the result of many factors including police cuts, arguments facilitated by social media, drug trafficking and much more. It also may be that media representations of knife crime are unfair because they downplay the violence outside of London and focus on young black men.

Word Watch

Youngest victims
According to NHS figures from April, the number of children aged 16 and under who are treated for stab wounds has risen by 60% in the past five years. The biggest increase was among 15-year-olds, with an 85% increase in stab wounds in the age group since 2012.
Homicides
Murders.
16%
Figures from the Ministry of Justice.
Tabloids
Traditionally, this was a newspaper that had pages half the size of a broadsheet. They are also known for publishing more populist and sensational stories. UK tabloids include The Sun and the Daily Mirror.
White people
Glasgow, was known as the “stabbing capital of Europe” until the 2000s — the violence occurring predominantly among gangs of white men. Assaults involving knives fell by a third by 2012, and there was a 69% drop in recorded incidents of people carrying knives by 2016, according to police figures.

Subjects

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