Dealing with the rising tide of UK knife crime

This year has witnessed record numbers of deaths and serious penetrating injuries, mainly in young men, from knife wounds in London, as well as several other major cities in the England. Rapid and skilful treatment of the victims of knife crime in major trauma centres can undoubtedly be life-saving, but requires the on-call availability of clinicians experienced in emergency cardiothoracic and abdominal surgery and significantly increases the workload of A&E Departments.

The underlying cause for this current epidemic has been variously ascribed to gang culture, drugs, rising numbers of young males, and diminished policing levels – especially the significant reduction in stop-and-search activity because of anxieties about racial discrimination against young black men.

On the 31st July a meeting is being held at the Royal Society of Medicine 1 Wimpole St London W1 to debate and discuss these issues in depth (click here for further information). Do join us there and also take a moment to post your thoughts about this epidemic as well as your own experience of dealing with the victims of knife crime.  

Comments (12) Add yours ↓
  1. ChristianBrown Consultant

    We are seeing increasing numbers of young men with penetrating renal injuries, sometimes isolated, sometimes as part of multi organ injuries and I look forward to the RSM Knife crime day and sharing our experience in a Major Trauma Centre.

    July 2, 2018 Reply
  2. Steven Norris Businessman

    I confine my comment only to the social aspect of this troubling issue. The increase in knife crime is certainly attributable to an increase in gang culture particularly although not exclusively among young black males which doesn’t just result in attacks on rival gang members but occasionally emerges as random attacks as part of brutal initiation practices. But the key element is also the most difficult. The recent rise is mostly attributable to the reduction in police stop and search activity. The current Mayor of London was concerned that this practice was discriminatory and his concern is understandable given the greater number of young black males who were previously stopped and searched when they were not in fact carrying weapons. But it is a sad fact of life that young black males are more likely to possess these weapons as evidenced not least by the prevalence of black on black crimes. In setting potential discrimination and distress against the proliferation of potentially lethal weapons we face a moral dilemma. But I am clear that the lesser of the evils is the restitution of a stronger stop and search policy.
    It should of course be accompanied by much more proactive effort to raise the sense of self worth and self-respect which these young men so clearly lack. They resent being treated as they see it as second class citizens, excluded from mainstream opportunity in education and in future employment prospects. The long term answer is not just stopping them from attacking each other and threatening the community as a whole but in recognising the need to invest far more in outreach through schools, through sport and through positive discrimination where necessary. This is not a cheap challenge. But it is infinitely cheaper than the consequence of doing nothing.

    July 5, 2018 Reply
  3. Christopher Aylwin Consultant

    Working in a busy inner city major trauma centre we see the consequences of knife violence on a daily basis. Although all trauma cases have increased over the last few years, we have seen a particular spike in penetrating injury which is now approaching 20% of our cases. The youth workers who are embedded within hospital perform a fantastic role in changing the mindsets of young people who have sustained interpersonal violence to try to reduce re-attendances to the emergency department. However perhaps it is time as a society that we look at knife violence as a public health problem. Without significant attempts at primary prevention – socially, educationally and politically – the issue is unlikely to go away. I look forward to the event at the RSM on 31st July and to hear the discussions on what we are seeing, and efforts to reduce it.

    July 6, 2018 Reply
  4. John Boyd Retired consultant surgeon

    The RSM is to be congratulated on presenting this meeting on a subject of such contemporary importance. Much is spoken about and reported on the subject of rising knife crime and this has not been reflected in meetings such as this which will provide a broad review of the social and practical aspects. A considered and effective response can only be achieved when there is discussion by well informed and concerned individuals.

    It is to be hoped that it will be attended by NHS decision makers as well as lawmakers and medical and surgical professionals.

    July 17, 2018 Reply
  5. Roger Kirby Professor of Urology

    Official figures show police in England and Wales recorded a 12% rise in homicides and a 16% increase in offences involving knives or sharp instruments in the year ending March 2018

    July 19, 2018 Reply
  6. Roger Kirby Professor of Urology

    The rise in the murder rate is the fourth consecutive increase with 701 cases, the figures show for the year ending March 2018.

    Knife crime continues to rise with police recording 40,147 offences this year compared to last year.

    July 19, 2018 Reply
  7. Roger Kirby Professor of Urology

    Knife crime affects communities, families and emergency services. @RoySocMed is hosting a public event on what can be learned and how to tackle this problem on the 31 July. https://bit.ly/2mcUBXR

    July 19, 2018 Reply
  8. Culley Carson Professor of Urology

    While we see some knife related injuries in the US, gun related injuries and deaths are the major violence related trauma in our emergency rooms. Indeed, we now have active shooter drills in our hospitals and clinics to train for gun related assaults in our health care centers. While we have been lucky enough to have none thus far, the gun violence in the US cities has reached epidemic proportions and is being studied by the CDC. Gun violence is the most common cause of death in large cities among adolescent males. In Chicago, there have been over 500 gun related homicides in 2018 with fewer than 50 knife related deaths. Unfortunately, the availability of guns, especially hand guns, in the US is a problem with no foreseeable solution. Trauma surgeons and urologists confront many gun related injuries even in smaller hospitals.

    July 24, 2018 Reply
  9. Roger Kirby Professor of Urology

    Cuts to policing are endangering the public, a police and crime commissioner has said, as national organisations expressed their concern over declining police numbers with many forces receiving record numbers of emergency calls.

    West Midlands police and crime commissioner David Jamieson warned that having fewer officers to deal with rising crime is a “deadly equation” as a catalogue of crimes such as modern-day slavery and gang crime which need to be investigated grows.

    Recent figures have shown how various serious crimes are on the rise, with almost 40,000 knife and gun crimes involving a knife or a sharp instrument recorded last year, as homicides across England and Wales rose 12 per cent in 2018, to 701.

    Meanwhile, police forces in England and Wales have less money in real terms than they did in 2010.

    July 29, 2018 Reply
  10. Roger Kirby Professor of Urology

    Media coverage of yesterday’s symposium on Knife Crime held st the Royal Society of Medicine:

    https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/knife-crime-epidemic-placing-a-strain-on-nhs-say-surgeons-2dnf72w9n

    https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/6911272/surgeon-warns-knife-crime-uk-wide-epidemic/

    https://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/surgeons-we-need-coordinated-action-to-combat-knife-violence-a3750251.html

    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/07/31/middle-class-cocaine-users-care-planet-ignore-drugs-destroy/

    https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/knife-crime-victims-lottery-care-surgeon_uk_5b608acfe4b0fd5c73d39c25?guccounter=1&guce_referrer_us=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvLnVrLw&guce_referrer_cs=O1B8CKOvfSrTsGQS6_lMXw

    August 1, 2018 Reply
  11. Roger Kirby Professor of Urology

    A young man has knifed to death and two others have been rushed to hospital after a triple stabbing in south-east London.

    Police and paramedics were scrambled to Warham Street, Camberwell, where the men were found suffering knife wounds on Wednesday evening.

    August 2, 2018 Reply
  12. Roger Kirby Professor of Urology

    Almost 12 per cent of officers responding to a recent survey said they planned to leave policing and 59 per cent reported low personal morale, amid an increase in violent crime, the terror threat and 999 calls.

    In the year to March, the number of homicides recorded by police rose by 12 per cent, knife crime offences were up by 16 per cent and robbery rocketed by 30 per cent. In the same time period, the number of police officers in England and Wales fell to 122,404 – the lowest number since comparable records began in 1996 – and the proportion of criminal investigations ending with a charge dropped to just 9 per cent.

    HM Inspectorate of Constabulary has warned that forces are failing to respond to low priority crimes because of “significant stress” caused by budget cuts and rising demand, with callers waiting in long 999 queues put at risk.

    August 7, 2018 Reply

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