Forget social issues. Look for psychological ones to explain knife crime

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The UK is seeing a spate of knife crimes (stock image)

This week two more young lives were cut short with the stabbings in Manchester and London of a teenage boy and a teenage girl.

What marks these as different, and worryingly different, is that these stabbing happened in “nice” areas, the kinds of places where such things don’t happen – although they patently did.

We are lucky that Canterbury, well most of Canterbury, is also a “nice” area where such things don’t happen.

But they do. Fortunately, not that often and not normally fatally, but they do happen.

Listening to the radio one morning this week they were interviewing a young black man who had turned away from gang culture and what he had to say was somewhat surprising as it seemed to turn received knowledge on its head.

Gang violence, he said, was not about drug wars, or wars for turf control: it was about gang warfare. Drugs are just the means of financing it.

Someone, somewhere, sometime had done something to someone, which had led to revenge attacks, followed by counter-attacks and so it spiralled out of control. It’s almost Romeo and Juliet writ large and updated, or West Side Story if you prefer.

When I was young, growing up in Essex we knew about the east London gangs and the local Teddy Boy gangs and later on, of course, you got the football hooligan gangs where teams of troublemakers fought each other.

What seems to be different now is the willingness not just to carry a weapon, but the willingness to use it, not as a threat but as an immediate response or apparently often in targeted attacks and even in random attacks, as we’ve seen this week.

There’s been a change in mugging as well, threatened with a knife the victim hands over his phone or whatever and still get stabbed. Why?

We know still that most stabbings are by young black men or teenagers and that their victims are usually other young black men or teenagers, but we are seeing a bit of a shift. We are beginning to think: is anywhere safe, is anyone safe?

There has been some suggestion that stabbing a victim can be part of an initiation rite into gang culture and that perhaps that is what happened to the innocent girl this week. There’s also the prevalent mantra being heard that “I carry a knife for protection”.

If nobody was carrying a knife on the streets there would be no need to carry one for protection and gangland violence would be a lot less lethal, most enormously a huge number of young lives would be spared.

As ever, left-wing commentators have tried to blame the rise in knife crime on austerity and social inequality.

I suppose threatening someone with a knife to steal from them might represent that. But that’s not what we’re seeing, we’re seeing gratuitous violence, so we need to look elsewhere for an explanation.

Why is it that so many young men have no regard for the human lives of others? What makes killing acceptable?

We can do all the stop and search in the world, and we should. Hotspots should be flooded with police, but even that wouldn’t have saved two young lives this week, they weren’t crime hotspots.

We can take knives off the streets but the problem is much deeper and it’s not about who’s got what – that might explain theft but not killing.

Others say it’s cuts to local authority budgets which means youth clubs and similar close, but I don’t remember my generation having local authority clubs or facilities like Riverside at Kingsmead and we didn’t go around killing people.

We had to make our own entertainment, form a drama group, join the Young Conservatives/Liberals/Socialists depending on your political taste, or even just hang round on the street corner near the chippy, talking to your mates, because you were too young and too broke to go in the pub!

But we never stabbed anyone. So why now, why is life held so cheap, why is taking life done so easily as if it doesn’t matter?

Following on in the week we had the news that children who were excluded from school are more likely to get involved in gangs. That’s one from the University of the Bleeding Obvious.

Although invert the question and you get nearer the answer: why are children who join gangs more likely to be excluded from school?

Anyone with experience of school will tell you that a percentage of pupils are disruptive and ruin the learning of others; contrary to popular opinion that they are not immediately expelled it is actually incredibly difficult to expel a pupil from school.

It seem much more likely that the kind of child who is disruptive at school is the kind of child who will finish up in a gang where they can give free rein to their disruptive tendencies.

We used to have discipline in schools and we used to have special schools for such pupils. Sadly the bleeding heart liberal do-gooders knocked that all on the head. Every child should be in mainstream schooling: there should be no punishment in case the poor dears were emotionally stunted.

Sorry but the deaths of those children this week can be traced back to all those child-centric academics and educators who failed to understand the nature of children or to anticipate what these children would grow up to be, fed on a diet of rights not obligations and without discipline.

Did I mention the absence of proper parenting, the need for discipline in the home as well as love, the need for two parents in place? I really don’t know how single parents manage to raise polite well behaved children, all credit to those who do.

Yep, we need a societal rethink. We could call it back to basics…

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