The same questions have been raised over the years; when will this all come to an end?
These streets are no longer safe, young lives are dying out there.
A parent having to watch their child leave the house, not knowing that could be the last time they’ll ever see them alive again.
No parent should have to end up burying their child. A burden no parent deserves to carry, as painful as it is, this is their current reality.
These cases have become so repetitive. Victims dying within a few distances from their homes, generally described as a “talented, polite and respectable individual who had so much more ahead of them”, and most times often knew their perpetrators.
A Vicious Cycle
Public pleas have been released calling for an end to knife crime, every possible measure has been put in place but it presently seems they’ve been to no avail. So where should we go from there?
It’s clear we’ve still not identified the real issue and causation as to why many young people are falling victim to knife crime.
The increasing cases, instils a sense of fear in a few young people who may then feel compelled to be armed with a knife for protection.
Despite the high levels of media coverage over the months on knife crime, this shouldn’t cause us to overlook the issue and become desensitised to it.
These young people are trapped within this cycle of violence, although it may not be physically obvious, they are seeking and crying out for help.
They are desperate for a solution.
We cannot continue to strive, in a society that ignores the constant cries of its young people.
Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, discussed the government’s inability to take proper actions on tackling the root causes of knife crime.
This is a national problem that requires national solutions.
Increasing funding for the police as well as restoring funding for the services that provide alternative paths away from crime, such as youth services, education, probation and mental health services.
Growing Up In A Culture That Glorifies Violence
In some communities, carrying a knife or being involved in gang violence is starting to become a normalised trend. They conform to what they see around them, following a path that leads on to a lifestyle of criminality.
Now trapped within this cycle, they fear for their lives daily. Carrying a knife is a necessity if they want to stay alive.
Witnessing stabbings and rivalries regularly, they become desensitised to the daily occurrences, not feeling any sense of remorse towards their victims or families.
There are often rivalries between gangs from different post codes (“post code wars”); stabbing a person from another gang or as a form of revenge, has become so glorified that it’s sometimes seen as a way of gaining some sort of respect.
Is Knife Crime A Microcosm Of Societal Failings Or Governmental Failings?
Campaign groups have challenged governmental decisions which may have contributed to the increasing knife crimes, such as cutting down necessary funds for organisations, that help keep vulnerable youths away from the dangers of the streets.
Although we recognise the flaws with the system, lets not ignore the flaws within our society. As much as we want the government to do more to help tackle the issue, communities where youth violence are most prevalent often have a culture that teaches and glamorises a lifestyle of crime, gang culture and violence. A culture that has been passed down generations for many years.
Growing up in such toxic environments where they become exposed to this culture from a very young age, is a point in their lives where they’re most vulnerable and are easily influenced. They start to become a product of their environment, their mindset begins to adapt to what they’re exposed to as a result of the culture they’ve grown up in. Regardless of how many opportunities could be made available to them, if we are not re-educating young individuals and dismantling these violent cultures that have been nurtured over the years, the cycle of violence will continue.
The change should first start from within, changing their perspectives and mentality on how they see themselves, others and life around them; before we begin to start dealing with the external factors such as lack of opportunities, jobs, youth services etc. We need to challenge their thought process, what causes them to wanting to carry out an attack? Is it a result of hatred, frustration or anger? Perhaps an act of revenge from seeing a close friend get stabbed?
If we’re not challenging and addressing the views they hold from such early ages they become internalised, and often times they carry that into later stages of their lives.
History repeats itself once again.
Teenagers as young as 13, 14, 15 are starting to carry knives to parties, gatherings and schools, so often times when minor arguments break out they feel the need to pull out a knife.
This then raises the question of what our society is teaching them, why has knife crime become so acceptable in these communities?
The Impact Of Poverty And Austerity
May Bulman, Social Affairs Correspondent, reviewed the links between poverty and the increase in knife culture amongst young people. Explaining how the impact of austerity has led to a spate of youth murders on the streets of London, as poverty-stricken households and “decimated” youth services push young people into a cycle of violence.
For a few others growing up in extremely low income households or single parent homes, turning to the streets is their only hope and form of escapism in which they see as their only alternative.
The UK has very low ‘social mobility’ which is sometimes expressed as ‘poor children grow up to be poor adults’.
Issues of poverty and inequality particularly affect Londoners from ethnic minority backgrounds.
There are strong associations between poverty and young children’s intellectual and behavioural development. Having low performances at school, truanting and most times ending up on the street.
They feel the streets would give them more attention and meet the needs their parents or they themselves were not able to provide. Now caught up in a lifestyle of violence and criminality, carrying a knife for protection is a necessity as they fear for their lives daily.
Police officers have become more aware of the impact poor use of stop and search can have. A statement released by the Shadow Home Secretary, Dianne Abbot, stated that ‘a return to high levels of stop and search will not solve London’s violent crime problem’, as random stop and searches had ‘poisoned relations between the police and local communities, hampering efforts to gather intelligence and solve major crimes’.
So this then raises the question of how do we want the government and police forces to work together in order help tackle the rising epidemic?
Lack Of Funding To Youth Services
Youth workers expressed their views on cuts to vital youth support programmes which are leaving teenagers in a “vulnerable place” and causing them to become embroiled in violence. The deprivation creates an environment where other forms of violence can thrive – there’s a lack of opportunity, a general disadvantage.
Will A Solution Ever Be Reached?
We currently live in a society that refuses to take responsibility for a lot of the things that goes on within our generation. To be able to tackle knife crime effectively requires strategic actions, taking on a holistic approach and looking at the issues and solution from different angles. It requires input from the whole community and those in authority.
Community worker and gang campaigner, Sephton Henry, discussed the importance of granting more control to people on the ground. Those at youth centres who really know what’s going on. People like him who have experienced the lifestyle of violence as a means to an end.
The government need to step up to the mark by providing more availability of jobs, opportunities and support by funding local communities who aim to keep the streets safe. Ex-offenders of knife crime require support and guidance to set them on the right path to prevent them re-offending.
The solutions need to focus on addressing the health implications of violence too. Those who’ve been a first-hand victim of serious violence, such as a stabbing, require immediate access to counselling, therapy, other mental health services and community-based emotional support services. Growing up in environments where carrying a knife or witnessing a stabbing so regularly, can result in psychological and emotional damage, creating a negative mental state.
Withal, I would like to dedicate this time to pay my deepest condolences to the lives that have been lost to knife crime in the recent years. I’d also like to acknowledge those who’ve dedicated their time and effort to really invest in changing the lives of our young people, in the hopes of securing a better future for them.
These young people have so much talent and potential in them.
Rather than shutting them out and disregarding their voices, lets build a community that supports and encourages our younger generation, letting them know how much power and greatness lies within them. Some of them don’t even see a life beyond the streets, and often times feel they have no purpose. Their vision is clouded by the bleakness of their environment.
Feeling no guilt in taking each others lives because they are yet to discover the value of life themselves.
Their lives are taken away from them before it even starts.
Every young life matters.
No Child Is Born Without A Purpose.