How knife crime has affected London

Knife crime continues to be on the rise in London with a spate of random stabbings in North London and most recently, two men stabbed near at a student accommodation in Wembley.

According to statistics published by the House of Commons Library, there were about 40,100 crimes that took place involving a knife or sharp instrument in England and Wales. The use of sharp objects, particularly knives, accounted for 33 per cent of homicide rates in the United Kingdom.

London recorded the highest number of offences, recording knife crimes at 168 per 10,000 individuals in the population. Surrey, on the other hand, has the lowest recorded knife crime rates at a mere 5 per cent in comparison.

It is interesting to note that there has been neither a sharp decrease or increase in knife crimes in London between 2010/11 to 2017/18. The above graph shows that in the former year, there were about 13,332 knife crimes recorded whereas, in the latter year, there were 14,769 knife-based crimes recorded. It was at its lowest only in the year 2014/15 at 9,691 crimes, still a staggering figure.

There are a total of 33 London boroughs and according to the data, the highest recorded knife crime offences are at Southwark at 860, followed by Haringey and Newham whereas Kingston upon Thames recorded the lowest at only 93 recorded offences. Heathrow Airport, too, recorded 2 offences – all between 2017 to 2018.

There has also been a 25 per cent increase in knife crimes between 2017-18 compared to 2016-17 in London, according to figures published by the Metropolitan Police.

There are other crimes that take place using knives such as homicide, robbery, rape, threats to kill, assault and attempted murder. According to the statistics published by the Office for National Statistics, 34 per cent of knife crimes are related to homicide and robbery, 8 percent under rape/sexual assault, 7 per cent under threats to kill, 7 per cent for assault and 6 percent for attempted murder. This means that knives and sharp objects are not merely used for stabbings but also as a means to intimidate victims into giving in.

As we take a closer look at the victims, we also need to understand the age group that most of them belong to. The age group between 18-24 years old in males and 25-34 years old in females are the highest groups in victims who have been killed by a sharp weapon, i.e., a knife. It should also be noted that the suspects are the highest among men at 70 per cent amongst 16-24 years old whereas it is merely almost 10 percent among women age between 34 to 44 years old.

It is difficult to adjudge the age group of perpetrators in general, as each crime cannot be singled out from another and they are usually not connected, However, with statistics from the Ministry of Justice, it shows that juveniles aged 10 to 17 years old are the offenders in 21 per cent of the cases.

This indicates that in order for the government to be able to ensure rehabilitation or prevention, there has to be better initiatives and programmes set in place that would discourage the youth from a life of crime and enable social and economic development by promoting education, information and social measures increasingly.

However, London is not the worst place in England when it comes to knife crime/homicide rates. Data suggests that the highest rates are in fact in Inverclyde, Scotland with 14 homicides recorded per 10,000 of the population compared to only 6.6 homicides in London. Manchester is not far behind at 12 crimes per 10,000. Notably, Islington and Newham are the only two boroughs of London that are in the top ten list of most homicide rates in England and Wales.

The NHS has also published data about admission to hospitals due to injuries causes by sharp objects. There were 3,634 admission in 2014-15 whereas there was an increase of nearly 39 per cent at about 5,053 cases that were reported. In 2017 to 2018, of those victims who were admitted to a hospital for assault by sharp objects were 16.3 per cent and were aged 18 or younger. Also, around 92 per cent of people admitted to hospital for assault by sharp objects are men and fewer women.

What is the government doing to curb it?

There are various reasons why knife crime takes place: gang-associated crime, lack of police resources due to budget cuts and sale of sharp objects. According to current UK laws, it is illegal to sell a knife to someone who is under 18 years of age and to carry a knife in public without a good reason.

The Home Minister, Sajid Javid has also agreed freedom to the police to conduct stop and search towards anyone who they feel may be carrying a knife to harm the public.

The government is also working with companies to develop faster technology that will be able to detect knives in crowded places and also distinguish them from other metallic objects easily.

Homelessness is also another issue that the government has to tackle especially pertaining to drugs and gang violence.

As a major step to encourage the youth to steer away from a life of crime and violence, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan has also pledged to invest £1.4 million in the future to continue to serve young workers in Major Trauma Centres (MTCs) and in hospital emergency rooms to guide the young involved in the knife crime to steer away from violence.

The support from the government continues in February with Sadiq’s new Young Londoners Fund of £45 million to help young Londoners who are at risk of committing crimes, with £15 million invested in each of the next three years. The investment will begin in April 2019.

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