Why is London becoming more violent?
Recent news has shown that London’s murder rate has exceeded New York’s. Although London may have taken the crown when it comes to murder rates this year, it’s being compared against a New York that is currently seeing a record low period of homicides, with last year being the least recorded number of murders in the city since records began.
On the other hand, London has seen an increase in murders over the past few years. As seen below, 2014 saw 83 murders in the capital, the lowest number in the last nine years. In the years since, the city has seen a rise, partly due to recent terror attacks, but also due to other domestic issues. The year of 2018 is on track to become one of the worst years London has seen in terms of murders.
Why is the murder rate rising?
The capitals murder rate is driven by a recent surge in knife crime. Of the 55 murders this year, 35 of them have been committed with knives. Part of the blame has been put on police cutbacks, part is on gang culture, and part has been put on the police’s stop and search policy being reduced.
There has been an additional 300 police officers deployed in the worst affected areas of London in an attempt to combat this recent spike in violent crime. The additional numbers follow on from Sadiq Khan’s comments that there needs to be more “intelligence-led” stop and searches by police in order to increase arrests and keep people safe.
With so many lives taken, and families destroyed already this year, it seems like too little too late. There’s too much blame being pointed in the wrong areas. Sure, less police on the streets make it harder for them to prevent these incidents. Maybe stop and search does need to be ramped up again? There was even a suggestion on a recent radio 4 broadcast that ‘drill music’ is to blame. As preposterous as that sounds, that is how far some people are willing to stretch in these troubling times.
Who’s being affected?
I spoke to a young man involved in a gang in London, 16 years old, who shall remain anonymous at his request. He told me that most of his friends who are in gangs or associated with them end up there because they have no one else. Many of them have been expelled from school, come from broken homes or have no positive role models in their lives. He told me that “if you have no one else, a gang is like a new family that has your back no matter what”. He told me how his dad had left home when he was very young, and his mum isn’t able to keep him and his two brothers in line. He says he feels guilty, but he takes advantage of that fact. This young man explains how he doesn’t carry a knife for fun, but: “if I don’t have a knife then they will, at least if I have one I’ve got a chance”.
Below is one of the stories from the Home Office’s #knifefree campaign.
What can be done?
It seems that it’s not just up to more policing, more potentially discriminatory policing techniques, and certainly not up to stopping a music genre to fix this issue. This issue is much more of a social one. There needs to be more support available for vulnerable young people, and for them to still be treated like vulnerable young people, not gangsters. One of the recent stabbing victims was a 13 year old child, his perpetrators being two 16 year old’s and another 13 year old.
That’s not to say more police won’t help, it certainly won’t make it worse. More police on the streets does mean more neighbourhood policing, and neighbourhood policing can be an important step to building bridges between young people and authority. Last year, an independent police think tank – the Police Foundation – concluded that: “It is clear that the cuts imposed in the years of austerity have substantially diminished the effectiveness of neighbourhood policing in many areas.”
New laws are also coming into place that will tighten up restrictions on buying knives online and make it illegal to sell acid to under-18’s . Are these restrictions going to be enough to halt the capitals rise in violent crimes? London’s Mayor, Sadiq Khan, recently came across somewhat unfavourably during an exclusive interview with LBC regarding the recent spike in violent crime. Many people think the Mayor’s response so far has not been strong enough.