The recent spate of knife attacks across London, seen by many as the crux of a 20% increased knife crime rate through 2016, has brought the issue of knife crime into sharp focus. Many police forces and politicians are advocating for tougher anti-knife measures, led from a criminality perspective. However, Cressida Dick argued earlier this month that knife crime is linked to public health.
With public opinion amongst police and politicians, with mayor Sadiq Khan linking youth cuts and stabbings, what is the evidence that knife crime is linked to poor social conditions and public health?
The Public Health Facts
As a backdrop to the current situation, the UK and London has seen living costs rise, with London living costs up 2.9%, and wages stagnate. The result is less money going around for everyone and a squeeze on standards of living. This is clearly demonstrated by December 2017 research conducted by GoCompare, which found that 40% of households would ‘go without’ to afford ensure the £700-average event would still occur.
The effect this has on public health is seen through poverty. With families working longer hours and with less on the table, undernourishment flourishes. Tied into this is public sector cuts, meaning the opportunities to blow off some steam and engage in activities off the streets are restricted. But does this create knife crime?
The Scotland Example
Glasgow has statistically been one of the worst areas of the UK for knife crime. Scotland, as a whole, was deemed the most dangerous developed nation in the world between 1991-2000. In 2005, the Scottish government implemented a public health scheme that specifically targeted education, poverty and social work care for those people challenged by public health problems.
The result was that by 2017 – the deadliest year for stabbings in England and Wales – zero people had been murdered as a result of knife attacks in Scotland.
Could London Be Transformed?
The question, then, is if London can undertake a similar scheme and flourish. Whilst London is a far bigger beast than cities like Glasgow, or others like Liverpool and Nottingham that overcame their own violent crime problems, the principles are the same. At a Borough level, creating development opportunities for youth and tackling the underlying issues of poverty can bring about positive public health change and bring down crime.
Knife crime is one of the biggest challenges facing the capital after what seemed like years of progress. With certain policies seeming clumsy and the authorities desperate for solutions, it might be public health that’s the answer.