More speed, less ‘waste’ – restricting access to knives for young people, must be a national priority

A greater urgency is needed to tackle knife crime was the headline in yesterday’s Evening Standard. A headline published after seven people have been violently killed in London over the last nine days; the latest fatality, a 17 year old boy stabbed to death by a gang of thugs in front of a KFC in Edgware Road, at lunchtime.  (See –https://www.standard.co.uk/comment/comment/evening-standard-comment-greater-urgency-needed-to-tackle-knife-crime-a4234136.html) . We strongly agree.

Yes, knife crime must be treated as a public-health crisis as well as a criminal one.

Yes, the police must become more involved in the solution by working alongside schools, employers and social services to protect vulnerable young people, not just adopting their traditional role as enforcers. The Met Police, in the words of its own Commissioner, cannot arrest their way out of this knife crime wave.

And yes, the  evidence of the success of the public health approach to youth violence is there to see in Scotland. (See our earlier blog – https://ask-me.org/2019/07/26/see-the-latest-blog-on-the-impact-of-scotlands-violence-reduction-unit-svru)

But the public health approach is a medium to long term strategy. It can take years to achieve what agencies in Glasgow did. And we are delighted to be playing our part with Waltham Forest Borough Council by creating the ‘Ask Me’ online resource for young people and their families and a network of Ambassadors to signpost young people at risk of gang and serious youth violence towards more positive options on offer. But the short term goal must be to make it far more difficult for young people to have access to knives. When acid was emerging as the weapon of choice on the capitals streets, the government moved quickly to toughen the law on handling acid in public and to make it more difficult to buy it. When moped enabled crime rose significantly in London, innovative high-profile tactics were developed for stopping moped thieves intent in reaping havoc and motor bike manufacturers made mopeds more difficult to steal.

However, it remains so easy to buy knives online and in hardware stores. Manufacturers of knives disguised as hairbrushes, keys and pens are able to readily do so making it easier for lethal weapons to be concealed. For so long we have been staggered at the access young people have to guns in the United States and yet, we seem to have a blind spot to the ease of access young people have to lethal knives in this country.

Many commentators blame Brexit for taking our leaders eyes off domestic issues. Whether Brexit is it is not responsible for the current suspension of parliament, we intend to use the next five weeks to lobby various MPs in London who now suddenly find themselves with time on their hands, to ensure the knife access issue is given a far greater profile than simply the Comments sections in our newspapers. As the Standard makes clear – it’s critical- young lives are at stake here and opportunities to fix the problem are being wasted.

Read more about the work of Ask Me Ambassadors or visit the FAQ section of our website by heading to https://www.ask-me.org

Posted by AskMe Admin