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Tackling London’s knife crime epidemic

Tackling London’s knife crime epidemic

80 people died from knife attacks last year alone, four on New Year’s Eve

In one fifteen hour period alone, four people were stabbed to death on New Year’s Eve on the streets of London, and if you thought the new year was going to bring change, unfortunately one more man was chased down the streets of Harrow and repeatedly stabbed on a door step, luckily he is in hospital recovering from the event.

80 people died last year, that’s around one every four days, and that’s not to mention the thousands of people who are injured in some way over the course of the whole year.

There is clearly a knife crime problem on the streets of London.

With funerals taking place this January, will there ever be a solution to all this death?

After launching the ‘London Needs You Alive’ campaign, mayor Sadiq Khan has promised to stamp down on knife control in the capital.

He also stated that he would increase stop and search initiatives, despite the evidence from the Home Office that this does little to reduce crime and in fact causes considerable community rifts.

So, would the main issue lie in the lack of funding for youth projects around London, with more and more young people spending time on the streets around destructive groups of people.

Over the last four years, the government has cut £22 million from the campaign, leading to the closure of countless youth clubs around the city.

However, this is of course no excuse for the violence seen everyday, and the knife attacks seen every week.

So, what is the answer?

According to Vice, a ‘radical change in strategy is required’, a move towards strong anti-violence campaigns throughout the whole city, as well as tougher sentences.

Evidence of these campaigns making a difference has been observed in Glasgow, where the Violence Reduction Unit has achieved some brilliant stuff!

Set up in 2005, it has reduced the crime rate over the past ten years by 60 per cent, and between 2011-2016, no one was killed in a knife attack.

So, how did this all come about?

Well, some specialist officers began actually getting onto the streets and working with the community, ultimately deciding to treat violence as a public health problem.

For example, instead of trying to simply prosecute people, they worked on getting knives off the street in the first place.

Firstly, all the major gangs in Glasgow were gathered together and simply told that they would be sent straight to jail if the knife attacks did not stop immediately, they were told that the police clearly knew who they were, and that evidence was enough that if any attack happened, countless people could be sent ‘down’.

Although this sounds drastic, this is where the regime worked: the officers offered alternatives to the gang members! These ranged from new job opportunities, training programmes, education and also relocation if some of the members were in direct danger.

The team in Glasgow stated that they believed ‘violence to be a disease’, an issue which needs to be stopped from spreading and in turn hurting or even killing other people.

Through essentially ‘curing’ the violent people, one could stop the spread, and therefore reduce the crime rate, and completely re-invent the people committing the crimes.

Similar instances have been seen in the US, where cure violence programmes have been sighted in 25 cities.

So, could this approach work in London?

Well, it is evident that the city still lacks a concrete solution to the plans.

Temi Mwale, founder of the 4FrontProject, an organisation which aimed to help young people get off the streets and away from crime, says that London is keen to start the process put into place by Glasgow.

However, with substantial cuts happening all over the city, does London have the funding in place to make this happen?

Elizabeth Whittingham Elizabeth is a third year history student studying at The University of Manchester.