Knife crime ‘a public health crisis’
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.