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Knife crime in the Uk



Since 2011, crimes involving knives or sharp instruments have increased by up to 30 percent (Office of National Statistics, 2018). Criminology dissertation help us understand the complexities of this alarming trend. Although knife crime is a general problem in England and Wales, there are specific areas and cities like London, Kent, West Yorkshire, and Dorset that are largely affected. In 2018, London was listed as having the largest proportion of knife crime and 35 percent of all knife offences recorded were associated with the capital city. More disturbingly, a report from the Office for National Statistics show that there were 168 offences recorded by the Metropolitan Police per 100,000 people in 2018 (ONS, 2019). The report further shows that Kent and West Yorkshire has had a sudden rise in the number of offences involving knives or sharp instruments. Robberies and violent assaults form the largest part of crimes involving a knife or sharp instrument in England and Wales (Densley, Deuchar and Harding, 2020). In contrast, homicide, sexual assault, rape and attempted murder account for a miniature proportion of crimes involving a knife or a sharp instrument. Notwithstanding the above, the number of homicide offences involving knives or sharp instruments has been on a rise since 2014. In comparison with 2017, the successive year witnessed increased admissions to NHS hospitals from injuries resulting from sharp instruments by up to 15 percent.

Notably, the patients admitted for injuries from assault with a knife or sharp object are predominantly adult males, and those under the age of 18 has increased from 318 to 573 in a span of five years since 2013. This shows it is male adults that are largely affected by knife crimes in England and Wales, and young people below the age of 18 are increasingly being affected as well. It is thus troubling that young people are getting more involving in knife crimes either as victims or perpetrators. Since 2013, the number of teenagers involved in knife offences has been on the rise and in in 2018, there were at least 4,459 underage teenagers sentenced by the courts compared to 2,639 in 2013. According to the Office for National Statistics Report for 2019, there were over 15,000 knife offences during the 12-month period leading to September 2019. According to the latest report, there were 44,771 knife crimes in England and Wales, a number that translates to at least 120 incidents in a day (Office for National Statistics, 2019).

However, the statistics also indicate a decline of 18 per cent in fatal stabbings compared to the previous year. The upshot of the above is that knife crime is a big problem in England and Wales and despite the efforts by police forces, local authorities and the government’s efforts, it appears that the success rate is still low.



In consideration of the above statistics, it is clear that England and Wales are beleaguered with an unabated incidences of knife crimes that have led to deaths and injuries. In 2019, the fatal stabbing of teenagers prominently captured the headlines of leading newspapers in the UK. For instance, Aidan Milan wrote an article titled: How many deadly stabbings have been there in London so far this year and Martin Bentham wrote an article in the Evening Standard, London knife crime hits record high with more than 15,000 offences in a year. The above articles featuring different dailies goes to show how serious the knife related violence is in the UK.

Therefore, my research has been ignited by the current problem in England and Wales and more specifically London. The problem of knife crimes continues to haunt the city of London and the UK generally. Therefore, this paper seeks to find out the effects of knife crime and how the government has responded to the crime so far. In this regard, this paper will consider the impacts of knife crime particularly on young people and the different remedies tried over the years.

The research question is as follows:

What are the effects of knife crime in the UK and what actions ought to be taken, in a bid to eradicate this menace? Notably, in a bid to answer the research question, this study will engage young youths in the UK who are involved in knife crime, wherefore, they will be interviewed, with the aim of finding the root causes of knife crime and the preventive measures. A primary focus will be youths among the BME group in the UK, owing to the fact that this is the group that is majorly affected in the UK. Moreover, social workers will as well be interviewed, in order to come up with possible solutions to the menace.

Generally, London has been ranked by the Home Office in 2018 as having the highest rate of 169 offences involving a knife per 100,000 population (Allen and Audickas). Researchers have indicated that the high rate of knife crime in London can be attributed to a number of factors including funding reduction, workforce reduction and lack of awareness and training. In contrast, Gwent had the lowest rate of 24 offences per 100,000 individuals. Although, the above figures from Gwent indicated a jump from the previous year, it still shows that the town has one of the lowest knife crime rates in the UK (Allen and Audickas). In this regard, Gwent Police force has been credited with adoption of a proactive approach in the prevention of knife crime through operations and awareness campaigns. Because of the persistent and worrying nature of knife crime, I am interested in the above topic to find out the extent of the problem in the UK and the remedies against. I will undertake the study by analysing and reviewing the existing literature on knife crime in the UK (Sherif, 2018). The existing research evidence will help in providing a deeper insight into the different measures taken t curb knife crime and their effectives. I am more interesting in literature that discusses the knife crime problem and the various responses by the police and local authorities. Therefore, I will be examining the magnitude of the knife crime, its effects and the efficacy of the measures taken by the relevant authorities.

Theoretical framework

Shepherd and Brennan (2008) suggests that the need to carry a knife is mainly attributed to factors such as: to facilitate robbery, to increase capacity to cause harm, to demonstrate machismo and because of fear of violence. They further argues that people will weigh the likelihood of being caught against the need to carry a knife in line with criminal justice interventions. However, the authors are concerned that there many incidents of knife crimes that go unreported because of the fear of reprisal from the perpetrators. Therefore, he suggests that the criminal justice system should work towards the identification knife crime hotspots for purposes of reporting. In this regard, there is an existing legal framework for sharing of data between agencies like the NHS, police and local authorities through the Crime Reduction Partnerships like Community Safety Partnerships in Wales and Scotland (Shepherd and Brennan, 2008). Shepherd believes that this integrated approach is more effective in the reduction of knife related crimes than if the task was handled by the police and local authorities only. In response to the prevalent knife crimes in the UK at the time, the author suggested that the government can implement various measures to curb the vice. In particular, he suggested that the carrying of knives be criminalised and more investment be channelled in the acquisition of metal detector wands and arches to reduce knife carrying. However, the authors maintain that because the above measures have not achieved much success, it is time that medical science be introduced in the fight against knife crime.

O’Hagan and Long (2019) note that knife crime has been increasing rapidly since 2017. As a result 31 out of 43 police forces in England and Wales report that knife crime as a pertinent issue in the criminal justice system. The authors connect the increased knife crimes to the drug problem in England and Wales. In essence, young people get attracted to crime groups like county lines where they resort to carrying of knives as a method of protection against attacks from other groups and also as an offensive weapon when needed for aggression. In order to deal with the above problem, the study suggests that nationwide policies should be implemented in local councils and schools that have vulnerable children. Therefore, there is need to undertake and implement more safeguarding measures for children and adults that are at risk of getting involved in gangs and drugs. In an eleven-year retrospective cohort study, Vulliamy et al (2018) found that the majority of stabbings involved males who were mostly from deprived communities. Further, there was a steady increase in the number of males involved were between the ages 14 and 18 years. The period immediately after-school was found entail a spike in the number of reported stabbings, a factor which can be used by the relevant agencies to craft intervention strategies.

According to Palasinki et al. (2019), anti-knife carrying messages are a useful tool that can aid in the reduction of knife crimes in the UK. The authors believe that perceptions of anti-knife messages and knife-carrying tolerance have an influence in the reduction of knife offences. In this regard, the study found that the male participants were influenced against engaging in knife crime by displaying fresh posters of knife injuries, especially eye-injuries. Therefore, they propose that that emotional and persuasive nature of ant-knife messages should be exploited by the concerned agencies to reduce the instances of knife crime. While the initial intervention measures were solely the responsibilities of the police force, there has been a paradigm shift towards a more inclusive approach that involves local authorities, social workers,

non-government agencies and the community. In this expanded approach, Nicholas Pound looks at knife crime as a public health matter but questions whether it is the most effective one in the fight against surging knife crime (Pound, 2019). He argues that although the involvement of General Practitioners (GP) is a good idea, it does not take into account the fact that people who are mostly at risk of involvement in knife crime rarely interact with a GP. Therefore, he suggests that role of GPs in tackling knife crime should be granted less emphasis lest it fails in the end.

In line with above, there was a recent proposal by the government that nurses will be compelled by law to report knife crimes. This proposal is among other initiatives by the Home Office to have people report any suspicious incidences related to knife killings. However, Finch (2019) believes that imposition of a duty to report illegal activity by nurses and teachers may not augur well with the duty of confidentiality, which is a key tenet of the medical profession largely based on trust between patient and medical practitioner. In general, it appears that there are new measures being introduced to curb knife crime in England and Wales. The methods applied are substantially different from those used 20 years ago and there is optimism that they will help reduce knife crime in the UK. Be that as it may, there is still need to adopt more encompassing approaches like community policing to help in dealing with knife crime from its roots and not from the head.

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Allen, G. and Audickas, L., 2018. Knife crime in England and Wales. House of commons library briefing paper.

Bentham, M. (2020). Knife crime at record high with over 15,000 London offences in a year. [online] Evening Standard. Available at: [Accessed 11 Feb. 2020].

Densley, J., Deuchar, R. and Harding, S., 2020. An Introduction to Gangs and Serious Youth Violence in the United Kingdom. Youth Justice, p.1473225420902848.

Finch, J., 2019. Government proposal that nurses must report knife crime could undermine confidentiality. British journal of community nursing, 24(5), pp.244-247.

Newman, D. and Dehaghani, R., 2019. Experiences of criminal justice in south Wales: evidence submitted to the Justice in Wales Commission.

Office for National Statistics 2018 Crime Survey for England and Wales

Office for National Statistics 2019 Crime in England and Wales: year ending June 2019

O'Hagan, A. and Long, A., 2019. The socioeconomic effects of organised crimes county lines on the United Kingdom community. Forensic Research and Criminology International Journal, 7(5), pp.274-280.

Palasinski, M., Brown, W., Shortland, N., Riggs, D., Chen, M. and Bowman-Grieve, L., 2019. Masculinity, Injury and Death–Exploring Anti-Knife-carrying Messages. Journal of Interpersonal Violence.

Pound, N., 2019. Those most at risk of involvement in knife crime are the least likely to have any interactions with a GP. Bmj, 367, p.l5791.

Shepherd, J. and Brennan, I., 2008. Tackling knife violence. BMJ

Sherif, V., 2018, March. Evaluating preexisting qualitative research data for secondary analysis. In Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung/Forum: Qualitative Social Research (Vol. 19, No. 2).

Vulliamy, P., Faulkner, M., Kirkwood, G., West, A., O’Neill, B., Griffiths, M.P., Moore, F. and Brohi, K., 2018. Temporal and geographic patterns of stab injuries in young people: a retrospective cohort study from a UK major trauma centre. BMJ open, 8(10), p.e023114.

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