Knife crime epi­demic should sur­prise no one

The Guardian - Journal - - Letters -

Three weeks ago my 16-year-old son and his friend were mugged in Nor­wood by a gang of seven youths who stole their phones, punched my son and threat­ened to stab him (Change school clos­ing times to curb stab­bings, say doc­tors, 7 Novem­ber). Plain­clothes po­lice were there within min­utes and the whole in­ci­dent was caught on CCTV. It was 3.30pm on a Fri­day and the boys who at­tacked them were wear­ing hood­ies/anoraks cov­er­ing their school blaz­ers. But they were ob­vi­ously lo­cal. So the po­lice have footage of the boys, in­clud­ing face shots, but said they don’t have the re­sources to go into the schools and iden­tify them. And they don’t have any com­mu­nity po­lice or li­aisons with schools.

Mean­while, last Thurs­day a 15-year-old was stabbed in Belling­ham, on Fri­day a 17-year-old was stabbed in Clapham and on Mon­day a 16-year-old was stabbed in Tulse Hill. I cry in sym­pa­thy for their par­ents and in frus­tra­tion that the boys who at­tacked my son have a grow­ing sense of in­vul­ner­a­bil­ity and con­fi­dence they can com­mit big­ger crimes with im­punity. Per­haps they’re al­ready out there stab­bing peo­ple; per­haps they’re build­ing up to it. Our city con­tin­ues to serve teenage boys and young men badly. Now fund­ing cuts mean the po­lice are un­able to get re­sults even when they have the ev­i­dence. What chance does any­one have of feel­ing safe on the streets of Lon­don, es­pe­cially if they’re young and male? Tammy Boy­dell


Stag­ger­ing school clos­ing times to re­duce num­bers of pupils al­lowed out to­gether cat­e­gor­i­cally lim­its ag­gres­sive be­hav­iour, as does a po­lice pres­ence. Walk­ing with my son to his sec­ondary school was, with­out ex­cep­tion, an aw­ful ex­pe­ri­ence. We wit­nessed dan­ger­ous, ag­gres­sive, out-of-con­trol pupil be­hav­iour to­wards each other and the pub­lic. Once, while walk­ing home amid a run­ning bat­tle be­tween girls, when one couldn’t punch her op­po­nent, she thumped me in­stead.

Pre­vi­ously, I had been ver­bally abused, shoved, hit by coins and watched, hor­ri­fied, as pupils van­dalised prop­erty. Re­ports of such in­ci­dents were largely ig­nored but, dur­ing a par­ents’ sur­vey, I sug­gested stag­ger­ing leav­ing times, es­pe­cially prior to hol­i­days when ex­cite­ment was height­ened. It was im­ple­mented and made a pos­i­tive dif­fer­ence.

Sim­i­larly, when a mini-dig­ger was lo­cated near the school, a po­lice of­fi­cer guarded it and our jour­neys there and back were the most peace­able ex­pe­ri­enced. Later, it was dis­con­cert­ing to over­hear PCSOs, pa­trolling lo­cally, say that they would avoid the school be­cause it got “re­ally nasty round there”. Char­maine Fletcher

Basil­don, Es­sex

We should surely look to more rad­i­cal so­lu­tions that could ac­tu­ally try and heal the mind­less vi­o­lence of the per­pe­tra­tors. How about putting pres­sure on cen­tral govern­ment to ur­gently re­verse the aw­ful fund­ing cuts borne by lo­cal au­thor­i­ties over the last 10 years, so that the many closed-down youth cen­tres, youth sports clubs, school coun­selling pro­fes­sion­als and youth men­tal health ser­vices could be re­opened and ad­e­quately staffed? Sim­ply get­ting schools to re­or­gan­ise clos­ing times would be a mere stick­ing plas­ter; and sec­ondary schools should not be bur­dened with the vast ad­min­is­tra­tion task that would in­volve. Let’s not push yet an­other of so­ci­ety’s ills on to the hard-pressed ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem to sort out alone. Rosie Oliver

Scar­bor­ough, North York­shire

There is no quick fix to end knife crime (Sur­geon’s view: ‘The vic­tims are get­ting younger and the wounds much worse’, 7 Novem­ber). My ex­pe­ri­ence as a cir­cuit judge is that, in some ar­eas, it has be­come rou­tine for youths, some­times as young as 12, to carry long, pointed kitchen knives on the street. Knife vi­o­lence is a mul­ti­fac­eted prob­lem and only a pub­lic health ap­proach, like that in Glas­gow, will work.

Draw­ers in ev­ery kitchen con­tain po­ten­tially lethal knives which any teenager can take on to the street. It is gen­er­ally the points of kitchen knives that cause fa­tal or lifethreat­en­ing in­juries, not the blades. In the longer term, in­juries and deaths would be re­duced if re­tail­ers sold kitchen knives with rounded ends, not points. In the kitchen, we need short pointed knives to fil­let fish or pierce meat, but we rarely use the points of longer knives.

Fur­ther leg­is­la­tion is al­ways a last re­sort, but why can’t man­u­fac­tur­ers, shops, po­lice, lo­cal au­thor­i­ties and the govern­ment act to­gether to re­duce the sale of long pointed knives and pro­vide an al­ter­na­tive of knives with rounded ends? It might be that an agreed pric­ing dif­fer­en­tial – say in­creas­ing the price of long pointed knives by £5, in com­par­i­son with rounded knives – would re­duce the num­ber of lethal knives sold. Nic Madge

St Al­bans, Hert­ford­shire

It is time to face up to the un­com­fort­able fact that we are al­low­ing young chil­dren to be bru­talised by play­ing vi­o­lent video games (Knife crime epi­demic will take decade to cure, 6 Novem­ber). It is com­mon sense that if we al­low chil­dren to play these games in­volv­ing killing and all sorts of bru­tal­ity, it will be a small step to carry a knife and use it. They have been car­ry­ing out “vir­tual” bru­tal acts from a young age. Stop­ping this means tack­ling a big money-mak­ing in­dus­try, and this would not be a pop­u­lar move. How can we be so naive in think­ing that a train­ing from a young age in such bru­tal­ity is not go­ing to im­pact our so­ci­ety? We need to face up to where we are go­ing and the choices we are mak­ing. Ann Far­ring­ton

Pen­rith, Cum­bria

If you close down youth ser­vices and take away op­por­tu­ni­ties and space for young peo­ple to be cre­ative and de­velop skills and in­ter­ests, should we be sur­prised when things go very dan­ger­ously wrong? Liz Fraser


The boys who at­tacked my son have a grow­ing sense of con­fi­dence that they can com­mit big­ger crimes with im­punity Tammy Boy­dell

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