Knife crime ‘a pub­lic health cri­sis’

The Guardian Weekly - - UK News - Mark Townsend

The head of Scot­land Yard has thrown her weight be­hind the idea that knife crime should be treated as a pub­lic health cri­sis rather than purely a crime. Speak­ing to the Lon­don assem­bly last month, Cres­sida Dick ar­gued that per­sis­tent lev­els of knife-re­lated vi­o­lence re­quired a pre­ven­ta­tive pro­gramme to help re­duce the num­ber of deaths and in­juries from at­tacks.

Dick’s com­ments will be seen as a sig­nif­i­cant show of sup­port from the UK’s most se­nior po­lice of­fi­cer for knife crime to be viewed through the “pub­lic health lens”.

Re­spond­ing to a ques­tion on whether the Met was en­gaged in dis­cus­sions about knife crime and pub­lic health, Dick said she was aware that most of those in­volved or pros­e­cuted for knife crime had a trou­bled up­bring­ing.

“[The ma­jor­ity of such of­fend­ers] are peo­ple who have suf­fered some kind of ad­verse ex­pe­ri­ence of a sig­nif­i­cant sort when they are young and/ or have lim­ited or prob­lem­atic fam­ily lives and par­ent­ing, all things that can lead to other neg­a­tive out­comes and not just be­ing sub­ject to, or caus­ing, se­ri­ous vi­o­lence to some­body.”

Her com­ments came only days be­fore three fa­tal at­tacks on New Year’s Eve and a fourth on New Year’s Day, killings that pushed the to­tal num­ber of fa­tal stab­bings last year in Lon­don to 80.

Treat­ing knife crime as a health is­sue is cred­ited with prompt­ing a dra­matic drop in stab­bings in Scot­land, with the de­cline most pro­nounced in Glas­gow, a city that once had one of the high­est mur­der rates in west­ern Europe.

A crack­down in Novem­ber and De­cem­ber, Op­er­a­tion Win­ter Nights, saw 900 peo­ple ar­rested along with the re­cov­ery of 359 weapons, in­clud­ing 278 knives. How­ever, the lat­est data for Lon­don shows a sharp rise in knife crime with 13,715 in­ci­dents – a rise of 30.2% – dur­ing the 12 months to Septem­ber.

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