Beyond the blade: the truth about knife crime in Britain
Teenage knife crime is a tabloid obsession, blamed on feral youth running riot in our cities. But the reality is much more complex – and we cannot save lives if we do not understand it...
Other preconceptions are very misleading. A study titled Young People and Street Crime, commissioned by the Youth Justice Board across 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. Its class – not race or culture – that is the defining issue. “When we took everything else into account, ethnicity dropped out of the model altogether,” says Marian Fitzgerald, a visiting professor of criminology at the University of Kent.
Similarly, the claim that young people are becoming more feral is a slur on a generation that fails to square with the reality. According to the Centre for Public Safety, it is true that in the capital, 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. But it is also true, according to the Ministry of Justice that 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…Click to read more on the project