Jason Isaacs, 18, was going to a party in Northolt on 18 November, but was found critically injured and died from his multiple stab wounds three days later. This shocking knife attack is just one of a number of incidents in London this year.
With 35 under-25 deaths on record according to the Guardian, 2017 is the worst year for fatal stabbings of young people in nearly a decade in the UK. Why knife crime is on the rise in a big way like an epidemic?
“We often talk about crime being an epidemic. It’s probably not a bad way to describe crime and offending. Epidemics evolve, they grow and change,” said Patrick Green, CEO of the Ben Kinsella Trust in London.
Patrick said more and more young people carry knives for fear of being attacked. But what breeds fear? XLP spokesperson, Naomi Allen said: “Many young people are growing up in (tough) environments, whether it’s broken down families, struggles and frustrations at school, and so on. They are struggling to feel in control of their lives and to feel safe, and one way to change that is carrying a weapon to protect yourself.”
The problem, Naomi says, also lies in how we approach knife crime: “We focus too much on how to prevent knife crime instead of looking at why young people pick up knives in the first place. How do we give them a safe place and someone to talk to so they don’t feel the need to carry a weapon?”
London Mayor Sadiq khan has launched a new campaign using the hashtag #LondonNeedsYouAlive to ask young people not to “put their futures at risk by carrying a knife”. Metro reported on 7 December that some community leaders had questioned if mayor really understands what is happening on the streets and what it would really take to get a young person to stop carrying a knife – arguably more than a social media campaign.
How to tackle knife crime in London?
Patrick believes the fist step is to correct young Londoners’ misconception about knife crime. The Ben Kinsella Trust do workshops to tell young people “carrying a knife doesn’t protect you but increase the danger around you”.
While there have been efforts to curb the rise of knife crime, Naomi points out that the general lack of positive reinforcement and direct support for young people is disappointing.
“A lot of these young people do not have positive voices in their lives. If they’re not doing well at school, or having troubles in their community, quite often, the only voices they hear are the ones telling them that they’re not going to amount to much. If they keep hearing about their shortcomings, then that’s what they are going to become. We need to be telling them that they can be better than what they currently are,” she added.
Another way, says Ben Kinsella Trust’s Patrick Green, is to look to other countries for inspiration, particularly Scotland. Green laudes Scotland’s integrated approach to tackling knife crime, which starts at the grassroots by providing good role models to troubled teenagers.
“We all have responsibilities to solve our knife crime issue,” said Patrick, and he added that prevention rather than cures should be focused on.