Observation Knife Crime In London


The main objective of this critical reflection is to narrate my experience of observing methods for addressing knife crime in Central London. Particularly, I conducted my observation at a bus station in central London where students mostly congregate. The observation was majorly naturalistic (or observation without intervention), and its main focus was to observe the risk factors for knife crime among high school children in central London. This was particularly informed by existing literature indicating that knife crime rates have been on an increasing trend (Campbell 2018; Jones 2017). For instance, literature by Campbell (2018) indicated that cases of children becoming victims of knife crime within London have been on the rise, with children as young as below 16 years being in frequent danger of knife crime between 4 to 6 pm. Furthermore, according to Campbell (2018), most stubs are experienced during the time immediately after school and these crimes predominantly occur in transport hubs, cafeterias, close to home, or at school. Campbell (2018) goes ahead to quote a security officer who narrated that based on her observations, she regularly report cases of kids being severely injured out of stubs or even killed by their colleagues on their way home from school.

From a theoretical perspective, behavioural theorists have attempted to explain that people are not generally born with a disposition to violent behaviour, but rather, they learn such behaviours from their daily experiences (Bartol, 2002). Against this background, the following sections will highlight what I observed, where I made the observation, why the observation was important, and an interpretation of my observation. During the interpretation, I will make specific reference to behavioural theory to evaluate the risk factors for knife crime among pupils in London.



I generally observed a habit of violence and assault among high school students on their way home from school. While my observations were majorly focused on students of age 16 years or above, I was also keen to observe children as young as 12 years old assaulting each other over petty issues such as accidental step on the toe during a struggle for sitting space.

Nonetheless, I observed various instances of violence that are worth noting herein. For instance, one student confronted his fellow for closely following his back and stepping on his shoes as they proceeded to the waiting area. Another student pushed his colleague’s bag on the floor to find a sitting place, a phenomenon that led to a confrontation and a fight. The students physically attacked each other until an older student intervened. In another scenario, one student snatched his colleague’s mobile phone and hit it on the wall. The offended pupil did not react but threatened to ‘deal’ with the offender to ‘pay back’ the assault while pointing at him with a penknife. Indeed, these observations made an impression to me that most teenage violence or knife crimes may not really be related to gangs, but emanate from a culture of assault and violence that students develop as they grow up.


As hinted before, I conducted my observation at a bus station where students converge on their way home from school. In a perfect situation, I would expect a bus station to be fitted with adequate 24 hours CCTV cameras and uniformed security personnel to ensure maximum security especially during such times of the day (4-6pm). However, I was keen to observe that there was only one CCTV camera located at the station’s entrance, and the camera was only focused outside the station. Worryingly too, during my 2-hour stay at the station, no uniformed security officer was around.


The main reason why I chose to observe pupils is that cases of knife crimes within London have frequented news headlines, with reports indicating that the most common time of knife violence is the time after school. According to Campbell (2018), pupils under 16 years have often been attacked between 4 pm to 6 pm during weekdays and this accounted for 22% of the attacks reported in the period between 2004 and 2014. I, therefore, felt intrigued to investigate why such violence was mostly reported to have occurred at transport hubs, cafes and other places where students converge. Besides, I chose a bus station (name concealed) because it provided a perfect setting to observe occurrences of violence without being noted as an observer; and because it was conveniently accessible.


My observation at the bus station revealed that knife crime and violence among pupils is not a spontaneous occurrence, but a habit developed by pupils during their daily experiences. For instance, it is expected that the pupil who threatened to ‘deal’ with his colleague would develop a habit of causing harm to his colleagues whenever they offend him. I would also expect that the students would learn from each other the habit of retaliating whenever they are offended by their colleagues. This observation corroborates to behavioural theorists’ belief that violent behaviour is developed from daily experiences; which may include observing friends, watching the glorification of violence by media, or observing their family members engage in violence (Bandura, 1977).

I generally observed a pattern of retaliation or intention to retaliate as a common behaviour among the pupils at the bus station. However, it was unusual that a student could carry a penknife to school and use to threaten a colleague at the bus station. Nonetheless, it is important to note that a key contributor to the escalation of violence and assault among the pupils at the bus station was the absence of police or security personnel at within the station’s vicinity at that particular time (i.e. 4 pm to 6 pm). This implies that there needs to be a deployment of adequate uniformed police at the station to ensure maximum security prevails when pupils converge on their way home. Deploying security to places where pupils converge is especially important is important considering literature by Campbell (2018) that teenage pupils who fall victims of knife crime are not necessarily involved with gangs but are victims of an endemic culture of assault and violent behaviours their offenders develop while growing up. It is, therefore, necessary for security apparatus to target the breeding environments for such criminal behaviours, environments such as transport hubs and cafeterias.

In conclusion, my observations reveal that knife crime in London develops and thrives in areas where students converge, especially when these areas are not under tight security monitoring. These observations are especially significant in developing effective measures to mitigate violent behaviours among pupils especially when they are outside the school jurisdiction. I, therefore, recommend that more uniformed personnel should be deployed in places where pupils converge. I also recommend that schools should consider staggering school leaving times to reduce student convergence in places such as transport hubs and cafeterias to reduce cases of knife crime and other kinds of violence.

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  • Bandura, Albert. (1977). Social Learning Theory Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
  • Bartol, Curt. (2002). Criminal Behaviour: A Psychological Approach. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
  • Campbell D. (2018) Knife crime: stagger school, leaving times, say London doctors, The Guardian.
  • Jones S. (2017) Knife crime is an epidemic. Do we care enough to look for a cure? The Guardian.

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