When watching a BBC documentary on knife and gun crime, there was a small patriotic cheer amongst me and my housemates when Canterbury was mentioned. After a moment, an awkward silence fell upon the room, “that’s not a good thing that Canterbury was mentioned”, whispered my housemate. She was right. Unfortunately it is the sad truth that gun and knife crime exists on our very doorstep, in the very town where we build our future and cement some of our finest memories. The very same town whereby on Tuesday 22nd July 2008 a young boy was stabbed and slashed across the face by his attackers; meaning there was more than one. Brutal? Turn the page perhaps? It is happening; and every day the situation gets worse, despite the copout truth that it is often perpetuated by the media: that there is no increase in gun and knife crime, it has just become popularised by media and new broadcasters. WHAT!? Does is matter whether or not the statistics have increased dramatically or not? I don’t think so. Every statistic we are waiting to see an increase in, in order to declare the situation at the level of an epidemic, is a life, a family destroyed and another hole in the ground. It is a travesty that this is the world we are living in. Unfortunately for some, even the community we live in. The question is, for how long to we let it be someone else’s problem?
Are you from one of the five cities that are considered to house the worst level of gun and knife attacks; Liverpool, London, Birmingham, Glasgow and Manchester? The Street Weapons Commission visited all these cities and heard evidence from a range of different sources who all confirmed that victims and perpetrators of weaponised street violence are getting younger and that the number of children and young people carrying knives is increasing. The Commission have called on the Violence Reduction Unit at the heart of the government, in order to help suppress the root of the problem; changes to attitudes, and social behaviour. This is an escalating social problem and needs to be addressed before we as a nation suffer even more tragedy than we have already seen and experienced. Serious attacks and fatalities involving knives show that in the first six months of 2008 seventeen teenagers were killed in London alone. This is shocking. This means that the lives of seventeen people and their families where destroyed, and this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Gun crime represents a serious threat to the neighbourhood in which it occurs, sending worrying signals about the breakdown of law and order and the loss of a civilised community. It is a highly concentrated phenomenon, however, is this any consolation to the people living in the communities troubled with guns? In 1998 following the horror of the Dunblane school shootings, handguns were banned in England, Wales and Scotland. Statistics from here suggest a displacement of weapon choice by offenders onto airguns, replica weapons, convertible weapons, and more recently, knives. In short, choices have done a full circle and we are still dealing with unjust deaths caused by dangerous weapons. However, knives and sharp instruments are the most popular method of killing and are accountable for a third of homicides. One of the concerns with knives is that, unlike guns they are easily accessible. Anyone can get their hands on a sharp weapon. Think of the sharp objects you have in your kitchen, which one could you use? Chilling isn’t it. 25% of young people at school admitted to have carried a knife crime, (National Youth Agency). Even more chilling and it gets worse; according to a new national survey kitchen knives, axes, razor sharp ‘cat skinners’ and ninja-style’ throwing knives are the most likely lethal weapons that are bought by children, according to a new national survey. The trading standards institute revealed that almost half the shops tested failed as they broke the law by selling knives to children under 16. Would you think about carrying a weapon?
We must ask ourselves if so called “Knife–Culture” risen due to the over popularised attention in gun crime focused on by British media. Did we neglect it too much? I don’t get it. I find myself avoiding the news as it is, sounds selfish, but it’s difficult when all we seem to see is a censored view of issues felt suitable to be fed to us by government controls. ‘No news is good news’. But now I’m being told that perhaps we are seeing a rise in all the knife crime being publicised because it has been hiding in the shadows of the glamorisation of gun crime, when really it was there all along. Well why were we not shown sooner; before we were faced by statistics that lead us to see more than 30 stabbings and many hundreds injured or maimed last year in London alone. That’s London alone.
One of the most famous cases last year was Ben Kinsella who was stabbed on a night out in Islington, London, celebrating the completion of his GCSE’S: all that hard work for nothing, what a waste. The tragic death of Ben Kinsella was a huge grab for media attention, as his sister was former Eastenders’ actress Brooke Kinsella, who began to be a spokesperson for the cause. Sophie is one of many who have been tragically affected by violent crime, Richard Taylor, the father of Damilola Taylor, the 10 year-old bled to death in the stairwell of a block of flats in Peckham, south London, after being stabbed on the way home from school in 2000. 17 year old David Idowu died after a three week battle for his life; he was also stabbed for no reason in 2008, his killer was just 16, and was caught on CCTV laughing and smiling as he pursued his bleeding victim away from the pitch and out onto the road where he collapsed. Young people are losing their lives before they have even begun in this war with violent street crime, many of these people have done nothing, are they just a sacrifice for killers to show what the streets can do. Danny O’Brian is just one of the many people who are fighting back, he took a 24-hour walk through the streets of London in order to stamp out knife crime; he also marched through London’s Hyde park in September in the People’s march against knife crime. Danny is the founder of a group called ‘Miles not Knives’ on social networking site Facebook. So far it has 1,480 members only, I can think of spoof groups that have more members, why don’t you join to show your support for those working for good cause; I have. Canterbury Christchurch Students’ Union also have ties with charity ‘TA:SK’, Take Action: Stop Knife crime, they launched officially 1st March 2009 and aim to bring awareness to the public through cultural events, such as music and festivals. You can join through CCCU Students’ Union Facebook group.
Violence is inevitable and therefore preventable. We therefore have the power to stop it from happening. The question is how? Of course an effective response would be from the central government, local police, local authorities, communities, but the main work will come from individuals. That means you. Our country falls under the description of a country facing a knife crime’ epidemic, or being at the grip of knife crime ‘culture’ that is spiralling out of control. We are at the centre of this, and it is a daunting reality. When do we act, when it’s too late? Or perhaps too close to home? Like for example in the same city we study in, oh wait, it is….
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