Time and time again the UK has failed to crack down on the alarming rate at which knife crime has grown. So much so, every headline about a stabbing becomes less surprising than the last.
London in particular, has found itself overrun by the issue with five lives recently being claimed by stabbings in the space of six days, bringing the total loss of life this year to 119.
Amongst those five who tragically lost their lives, was 15-year-old Jay Hughes. It paints a genuinely harrowing picture when kids are losing their lives by being dragged into something they couldn’t possibly understand.
There is never going to be a quick fix to the ongoing issue, to assume that these deaths are going to cease overnight would be foolish. Glasgow is a city that is living proof that there is a solution though.
Named the ‘murder capital of Europe’ in 2005 by the World Health Organisation, this year Glasgow had its lowest murder rate since records began in 1976.
Elsewhere the problem is worsening. In the year ending March 2018, there were around 40,100 (selected) offences involving a knife or sharp instrument in England and Wales. This is the highest number in the eight-year series.
In the same period there were 5,053 finished consultant episodes (FCE) recorded in English hospitals in 2017/18 due to assault by a sharp object. This was an increase of 14% compared to 2016/17 and 39% higher than in 2014/15.
From police forces facing drastic cuts to a lack of facilities for young people – there are a long list of factors contributing to the rise in incidents.
We discussed the growing issue with Royston, an entertainment industry expert and the mastermind behind a performance by Ray BLK at the Grime Awards; the dancers in this performance boldly painted numbers on their chest to reflect the number of knife crimes committed against young black men in 2018.
“In the UK young people have too much of an easy access to knives and other things that should be beyond their reach. It’s our responsibility to educate and guide youths on the dangers these things accompany, outlining precautions that should be taken and hotlines that are available. It’s an absence of sufficient education that’s a leading cause for the growing knife problem.”
Clearly a subject he is passionate about creating a conversation around, Royston also touched on the importance of those with a platform using it to highlight the true level of the problem.
“Anyone that has a following or presence should feel that this is very important, actively raising awareness in any way possible. Regardless as to whether the topic is close to their heart, influencers have a responsibility to use their platform in a positive way. Whether you like it or not you are a role model and people listen to you, so it’s your job to respect and acknowledge that.”
“I find that the more we communicate the more awareness we bring; if the arts are capable of focusing on this issue, these organisations and charities will be able to spark invaluable conversation and teach crucial lessons, as little as these may be.”
The impact that charities can have on young people is immense, there are so many organisations across the country going above and beyond in helping kids who could otherwise find themselves caught up in the problem.
Without their work these staggeringly high numbers of knife crime incidents, would undoubtedly be even higher.
Charities like The Ben Kinsella Trust, which was set up in the wake of the murder of Ben when he was just 16. Steel Warriors who take the knives confiscated from the streets of London, melt them down and turn them into outdoor fitness equipment.
The sad reality is though that whilst the work these charities are doing is nothing short of amazing. It’s never going to be enough to solve the issue.
Before writing this piece, I spoke to ex and current police officers about the well-documented cuts to funding and it hardly comes as a surprise that they believe this is a huge factor in the rise in incidents. The underlying feeling amongst everyone I spoke to, was that the government had made them a second priority, despite a bigger need then ever for their services.
BBC Reality Check calculates that between 2010 and 2017 there has been about a 20% cut in police funding in real terms.
It’s barely rocket science. You continue to take officers off the street and we’re going to see a rise in crime and that’s exactly what is happening. The other worry is, when does knife crime turn into something even more serious? At the rate the current issue is growing it’s surely only a matter of time.
We have more kids, who are younger than ever carrying knives on the streets, kids who don’t have the facilities or services that those before them have had to prevent such choices.
A recent report found that some children are starting to deal drugs to provide for their families, while others are drawn into debt bondage and controlled by violence and intimidation.
These kids are falling into a trap that we have created, a trap that once they have fell into is extremely hard to escape.