Violent crime: ‘a disease rotting our society’

Epidemic: Theresa May has launched a week-long summit to tackle knife crime.

Yesterday, Theresa May summoned politicians, police and experts to an emergency summit on knife crime at Downing Street. Amidst the debate, four common myths tend to come up again and again.

Theresa May has warned that the UK “cannot simply arrest itself” out of its knife crime epidemic so will need a “multi-agency, whole community” response to tackle the problem.

The prime minister made her comments yesterday at a meeting of 100 experts from criminal justice, health and youth work backgrounds at the opening of a Downing Street summit prompted by the number of fatal stabbings rising last year to the highest since records began more than 70 years ago.

To help rational discussion in schools and families, The Day breaks down four common myths:

Myth #1/ “It’s all down to police cuts.”

Police numbers are at their lowest level since the early 1980s, but the number of police cannot be directly related to the amount of crime.

Between 2005 and 2010 police numbers were at a record high, yet in 2008 there were 775 murders in England and Wales — 49 more than there were in 2018.

Many experts say cuts to youth services are having the worst impact.

Council youth funding has been halved since 2010.

Myth #2/ “It’s just a London problem.”

Nope. Violent crime is rising four times faster outside of London.

In Yorkshire, knife crime has jumped by 77% since 2010.

Myth #3/ “It’s a race issue.”

Today, Inverclyde, just west of Glasgow, has the highest murder rate in the UK. Its population is 98% white.

The mass media tends to link knife crime to black communities. However, Glasgow was known as the “murder capital of Europe” in 2005 for its high rate of violence among white men.

Myth #4/ “Violent crime goes down when police have stronger stop and search powers.”

On Sunday, police received extra powers to stop and search people in the street. However, the College of Policing says that stop and search had no impact on violent crime between 2004 and 2014.

And more forceful policing may be the wrong approach. In Glasgow, the murder rate has more than halved since a Violence Reduction Unit started treating violent crime as a public health problem, focusing on rehabilitation.

Radical rethink

Sajid Javid, the UK’s Home Secretary, has suggested that it should be a “public health duty” to spot early signs that a young person could be in danger, “such as presenting in A&E with a suspicious injury, to worrying behaviour at school or issues at home”.

But Enver Solomon, chief executive of the charity Just for Kids Law, said there was a “real risk” that this could lead to “unfairly labelling and targeting young people and seeing them as offenders first and victims second”.

You Decide

  1. Should knife crime be treated as a public health problem, like obesity or smoking?
  2. Do you have a duty to help society?

Activities

  1. Think of another myth about knife crime or another social issue and fact-check it like we have done in this article.
  2. Create a “public health” leaflet explaining the work of the Violence Reduction Unit in Scotland. Use the link in Become An Expert to help you.

Some People Say...

“Poverty is the worst form of violence.”

Mahatma Gandhi

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
After a series of stabbings at the weekend, Prime Minister Theresa May has launched an emergency consultation on youth violence at Downing Street. Over the week, more than 100 experts including police, politicians and health experts will give evidence. It is part of a new “public health” strategy under which hospitals and schools could be sanctioned for failing to report knife crime warning signs in young people to the police.
What do we not know?
Whether rising knife crime is linked to the so-called “county lines” drug trade, where city gangs trick or force vulnerable children into supplying drugs to rural areas. Politicians, including May, have blamed drugs, but others like writer Max Daly say most fights that lead to stabbings have nothing to do with drug crime.

Word Watch

Early 1980s
According to Home Office figures.
775 murders
There have not been as many homicides in England and Wales in any year since.
Four times
According to analysis by The Times. Outside London, violent and sexual offences increased by 51% on average over the past two years, compared with an increase of 12% in the capital.
Rehabilitation
It worked on projects that emphasised positive role models and offered young people an alternative to gang membership, such as youth clubs, as well as the opportunity for training and work.