If you delve further into the capital’s headlines and bypass the current goings-on with Brexit, you’ll find violent crime and gangs are still a problem in London, and have been for some years. From teenagers being stabbed in the street to so-called postcode wars between gangs, London is rife with young people carrying knives and other weapons with the opinion that they are ‘protecting’ themselves.
The epidemic of knife crime over the last few years appears to have reached its peak, with the number of violent crimes at its highest in 8 years. Reducing UK gang crime needs to be a high priority, but how should it be dealt with?
Violence in London
While violent crimes occur across the country, it is London that appears to have the highest rates. A larger concentration of gangs appears to pop up in the various boroughs of the city, with the top 5 most violent boroughs named as Westminster, Lambeth, Croydon, Newham and Tower Hamlets in 2017.
In June 2018, Mayor Sadiq Khan announced that every London school would be offered a metal detecting wand in an effort to reduce knife crime. Furthermore, an extra £625,000 was pledged towards knife crime projects. The Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime announced new measures including 80 specialist officers to target high knife crime areas, as well as targeting shops which sell illegal knives to underage people.
How to help young people avoid gangs
How to tackle the UK’s gang culture and reduce knife crime is something that nearly everyone has an opinion on, and there are so many different ways it can be attempted. Many have applauded the way Scotland have dealt with their violent crime rate; in 2005, Strathclyde Police created a Violent Reduction Unit, designed to prevent violent crimes instead of solving them.
Taking a public health approach, teachers, social and health workers were brought together to share insights on local gangs. Those who were identified as potential gang members were encouraged to attend sessions to help prevent future violence. What’s more, they were shown locations and pictures of gang members to send a clear message that police knew who and where they were. Those involved in gang behaviour were offered alternative options including job opportunities, housing and training to avoid the chance of repeat offending in the first place.
The decline in violent crimes across Scotland has been dramatic since 2007; it has almost halved, with crimes involving a weapon down by two-thirds.
What can be done on a local level?
The community plays a huge part in reducing knife crime and gang culture. It needs to include everyone; schools, hospitals, local businesses and charities to help young people understand the impact of knife crime.
So many kids assume they’re carrying a knife for their own protection, or to look “cool”, without realising it can increase the risk of an incident. Talking to the younger generation is a crucial part; asking them about why they think knives and other weapons are so widespread, and how they think the problem can be solved.
Within local communities, it’s important how those who have previously been in trouble are treated. Instead of ostracising them, help should be offered to ensure they aren’t lost to a gang or even become the victim of a crime themselves. Better services such as youth work, education workshops and mental health give young people the chance to stay in school and off the streets; especially those who are at risk of being recruited into a gang.