Dealing with the spiraling incidence of knife crime

Almost 100 people, mainly young men, have been fatally stabbed in London since the start of the year. The overall number of knife offences in the capital rose by more than 20% last year to 14,680. Knife crime against young victims across England and Wales has surged by 69% over the last four years.

Politicians and youth workers have accused the government of failing to act on the rise in stabbings, and warned of the disastrous effect that cuts to police and youth services were having on young people. Unfortunately the number of these crimes that has led to criminal charges has plummeted, with the proportion of perpetrators who faced charges falling from more than one in three (35%) to just 15%. This raises questions about why a growing number of these crimes are going unsolved, despite the rise in young people getting caught up in knife violence. 

At a specially convened meeting on the issue at the RSM on the 31st July, the consensus was that the police should increase the use stop-and-search tactics to tackle soaring knife crime and violence in London. We heard that the use of stop-and-search peaked in 2008 when Boris Johnson was the Mayor of London in response to a significant rise in violence. Stop-and search powers were used 600,000 times in that year, but reforms introduced by Teresa May led to a dramatic decline in the use of these powers. In 2015/16 they were used only 160,000 times because the police were only allowed to stop people when there were ‘reasonable grounds for suspicion’ amid concerns that the policy was alienating black and ethnic minority communities.

London’s population has recently seen a dramatic increase in younger people, many of whom are socially deprived and easily lured into gangs. This is caused by higher birth rates and migration. Where there are more young men in society there is often an increase in crime generally and an increase in violence in particular.

As well as hearing from some of the UK’s top trauma surgeons about the latest techniques of surgical intervention to deal with the consequences of stab wounds, we heard from Professor Jonathan Shepherd about an innovative information sharing scheme that dramatically reduced knife crime in Cardiff and which might be applicable in London. Commander David Musker from the Metropolitan Police also described “Operation Sceptre” which is a focused response to London’s current knife crime crisis.

To read and comment on Professor Roger Kirby’s blog on the rising incidence of knife crime click here

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