London Struggles to Find Solution to Knife Crimes
In the midst of an epidemic of violent crimes involving knives, London saw two teenage boys and two men stabbed to death between Oct. 31 and Nov. 4 alone. So far in 2018, the capital has been witness to 118 homicides, 73 of them from stabbings.
The prevalence of knives has become so normalized that children “as young as primary school age” are carrying them. Analysts attribute the rise in violent crime to “rivalries between drug gangs,” and reductions in funding for youth services and social programs. Social media culture is also responsible for facilitating activity that causes contention and instigates violence, they say.
Mayor Sadiq Khan has been under mounting pressure in the face of the uptick in violent crimes throughout London. To tackle the issue, he has set up a Violence Reduction Unit which replicates the one in place in Glasgow, Scotland, once known as the “murder capital of Europe.”
A statistical bulletin on homicides in Scotland in 2016 to 2017 reports that, over the last decade, the homicide rate in Glasgow fell by 60 percent. The decrease in the violent crime rate resulted in part from anti-knife campaigns at schools and a successful push for legislation that augmented the sentencing limit for bearing a knife.
The strategies carried out in Scotland have provided a model for London to follow. One of the implemented tactics involves perceiving violence as a “public health issue,” which implies that violent behavior is contagious and needs to be contained. By keeping track of causal factors, risks and trends, officials can better comprehend the rise in violent crime in London and develop plans of action that would be best suited to deal with such a public menace.
On Nov. 2, Khan announced that the Violence Reduction Unit will conduct an urgent assessment of homicides and other violent crimes committed in London. He has also called on local leaders to lobby the government for more financial resources to improve policing. City Hall figures show that police coverage in London is “at its lowest rate in 20 years with 3.3 police officers for every 1000 Londoners.”
Bolstered by the support of the mayor, London’s Metropolitan Police and its Violent Crime Taskforce has made upwards of 1500 arrests and confiscated “hundreds of knives and dangerous weapons from the streets of London” in spite of the low coverage statistics. But the Violence Reduction Unit also seeks to cut off the problem at the source, promoting early interventions with young people and providing them with opportunities that will keep them off the streets.