Those in power appear to have no idea what is going on. One day, prime minister Theresa May says that there is no “direct correlation” between the rise in violent crime and the staggering decrease in police numbers since 2010 (a fall of over 20,000 officers). The next, head of the Metropolitan Police Cressida Dick says on radio that there’s “some link between violent crime on the streets obviously and police numbers, of course there is, I think everybody would see that”. This going alongside the Police Foundation’s (an independent police thinktank) conclusion that “it is clear that the cuts imposed in the years of austerity have substantially diminished the effectiveness of neighbourhood policing in many areas”.
It leaves us questioning who to believe, when those in power appear almost laughably at odds, except for the fact that kids are dying.
“As officer numbers have fallen, knife crime figures have risen”
Statistically speaking, as officer numbers have fallen, knife crime figures have risen. Interestingly enough, the trend also follows for the prevalence of stop-and-searches. Numbers are down from almost 1.4million stop-and-searches in 2009/10 to around than 300,000 in 2016/17. Correlation? Definitely. Causation? Maybe, maybe not. Some point to the fact that youngsters feel they are less likely to be caught with a knife than they were 9 years ago. Others argue that youngsters hide their knives in places like bushes, and so increasing stop-and-searches would be fruitless and serve only to alienate the community.
Some call for tougher prison sentences. Ministry of Justice statistics show that 18% of repeat knife offenders escape prison, whilst another 19% merely get a suspended sentence. Longer, harsher sentences would act as a deterrent, but again, this is all reliant on these young people fearing that they would get caught, and actually seeing prison as a deterrent in itself. The gangs these young people are part of have already infiltrated Britain’s pathetic prison system – many argue what good would putting youngsters in such a chaotic environment do, some for possessing a knife ‘only’ as a preventative measure? Not to mention the strain the prison system is already under, with overcrowding and a lack of funding. In our time of austerity and Brexit uncertainty, financial guarantees are far from secure.
Others disagree that an increase in police numbers is worthwhile. Akala states that “having a police officer is not going to undermine the reason why some young people feel so desperate, or disenfranchised, or enraged that they are killing other young people”. Akala points to these core community fundamentals that need to be honed in on, with a focus on childhood upbringing.
“Issues regarding poverty and culture…so little guidance is available”
I spoke to Gareth, a Nottingham student who worked as a behaviour support worker for abused children for over a decade at an EBD school, in order to get an understanding of these issues from someone who has worked with these troubled young people up-close. He points to issues regarding poverty and culture, but also to a “lack of upward mobility aligned with huge cuts to education and young people’s mental health services”, which “means so little guidance is available”.
His suggested solutions point to an undeniable need for more money. “We need better education,” he said. “Better youth programs, better youth offending rehabilitation and more community police”. Gareth went onto describe anecdotal backing to Akala’s focus on domestic abuse, as he described the tragic incident when he was stabbed by one of the children at the centre using a knife made from plastic tubing. The child’s previously imprisoned father had returned home and beat the family, causing the child’s emotional and violent reaction, whereupon he stabbed Gareth.
When I asked him if he pressed charges, he responded simply, “No. I didn’t press. He was already suffering”.
The unfortunate reality of knife crime is that we are all suffering. The victims, the perpetrators, the public terrified at who could be next.
Nobody wins when a kid is murdered. Or anyone else, for that matter.
As students, we are part of an age group that are so often caught up in this abhorrent and bloody violence, and, whilst it still touches us from time to time (the George Boakye incident at Broadgate Park last February springs to mind), we can be thankful that it does not affect us in quite the same way it does our peers struggling in say London.
And, as students, we have some of the most powerful voices of any group in the public sphere. We are the voices of free speech. We are the young. We are the future. Let’s not waste it.
“Craig Guilford still points out that on average there are still two offences a day to do with knives (in Nottingham)”
We can make a difference here in Nottingham. Whilst Nottinghamshire police are one of only two police forces in the country that has a unit dedicated to tackling weapons crime, the chief constable Craig Guilford still points out that on average there are still two offences a day to do with knives. That goes alongside the Nottinghampost statistic that knife crime in Nottingham has increased by 10.8% in the past year, and the unfortunate reality that six people died in knife attacks in Nottingham between October 2017 and September 2018. Lenton, as we all know, is seemingly a safe space for crime.
Let’s come together. Let’s put our differences aside. Young or old. Rich or poor. Black or white. Left or right. People are dying. Our children are dying. That can never be acceptable.
So let’s stop squabbling. Let’s stop arguing over inanities and debating trivialities. Let’s peacefully protest. Let’s make our voices heard. Let’s raise awareness. Let’s be vigilant. Let’s support one another, help each other, work with our local communities to make things right, both here in Nottingham, and wherever you return home to in the summer months.
Because, unless we pull together, people are going to keep dying. And I don’t think my conscience, or anyone else’s, can live with that.
Part 1 of 2 can be found here.