“I got sucked into the group lifestyle, the street lifestyle,” a former gang member told The Guardian earlier this year. “I was young, I wanted to be popular, I wanted to be respected by the older boys. I did what I thought was right to get the credentials I wanted. Fighting, showing my strength, and being feared in the area. This is when I was 12.”
By 14, the teenager had been stabbed seven times. At 15, he was jailed for 18 months.
His story is increasingly common. Last year, knife crime rose by 22% in England and Wales, with almost 40,000 incidents recorded.
Surveys find that the main reason young people give for carrying knives is self-defence. But weapons do not make people safer — in fact, those who carry knives makes are more likely to be hospitalised, while risking a jail sentence of up to four years.
Many other causes have been blamed for knife crime, including drill music, police cuts, broken families, peer pressure and social media.
Why do you think that some young people decide to carry knives? And what underlying social causes might also have an effect?
For more resources, check out these free lesson plans from the Home Office.
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#LondonNeedsYouAlive — watch a campaign video by the Mayor of London to start a discussion about knives in the capital city, and elsewhere.
- As a class, brainstorm reasons why you think young people might carry knives, and discuss.
- Write a short story from the perspective of the teenager who is quoted at the beginning of this theme. Imagine he is now 18, and reflecting on his childhood.
- Write your own news story about knife crime in the UK. Include research on why it is rising and what is being done to combat the problem.