knife crime in uk vs nyc

It’s one for the record books, but it’s nothing to celebrate.

The murder totals in London for February and March tallied at 37. That’s two more than New York City’s 35 for the same time period. This marks the “first time in modern history” that London surpassed New York City for murders, according to the The Times.

This new precedent should resonate with the knife community. Both cities have similar population sizes, both have economies that rival that of entire developed countries and both take hard lines on possession of firearms and knives. However, London takes an even more restrictive approach to knives, conducting amnesty drives and prohibiting public possession without “good reason.”

Despite that, stabbings accounted for 31 of London’s murders, and knife crime in general is the driving factor for the increase. This would seem to indicate the ineffectiveness of London’s knife restrictions overall, as indicated by this tacit admission from MP Sarah Jones.

From the BBC, quoting Jones:

“We need a proper strategy that looks at all of the issues.

“Knife crime and violent crime acts like an epidemic, so you need to go in at the source to cut it off and then you need to inoculate the future young people against it.

“Going in at source means major intervention work with youth workers, inoculating means going into schools, changing the social norms, educating kids, teaching them what it is to be a man, teaching them how they don’t need to carry knives.”

This quote, also from the BBC, from the former superintendent of London’s Metropolitan Police, Leroy Logan, echoed those sentiments.

“Police can’t just arrest or stop and search their way out of this problem; it has to be done in partnership with the communities.”

This is in line what many in the knife community have argued for years. Knives aren’t why someone commits a violent act. There are other factors at play that influence behavior, and those should be identified and addressed.

Granted, banning certain items, such as knives (or firearms, a parallel discussion in the United States), may well prevent someone from committing a violent act with that item, but left unaddressed are the would-be aggressors’ motivations and circumstances. Until and unless that happens, the sliding scale of destructive tools will simply move on to the next item. Case in point: UK acid attacks are on the rise. That follows extensive prohibitions on firearms and knives.

Even The Guardian called into question the term “knife crime” as being misleading or overly simplified.

“Knife crime” is a construct. It does not simply mean, as one might reasonably expect, crimes committed with knives. It denotes a certain type of crime committed by a certain type of criminal in a certain kind of context.

Those “certain types” often single out particular groups of people, which makes “knife crime” as a concept even more insidious. From The Guardian again (emphasis is mine):

In 2007, then prime minister Tony Blair told an audience in Cardiff: “The black community – the vast majority of whom in these communities are decent, law-abiding people horrified at what is happening – need to be mobilised in denunciation of this gang culture that is killing innocent young black kids. But we won’t stop this by pretending it isn’t young black kids doing it.”

When politicians frame the issue in this way, the results can disproportionately impact communities of color via increased law enforcement scrutiny. It’s as if white majority populations are somehow exempt from the factors that lead to “knife crime.” Or, worse, that there is something inherent about people of color that predispose them to violent acts.

When white kids are killed, people opine about the state of youth today, the demise of the town in which they died, or the world in general. When black kids are killed, usually the assumption is that their race had something to do with it.

It comes full circle when comments come in following a murder involving a knife and a person of color.

And yet a few days after his death, a Conservative councillor in Dover, Bob Frost, posted a news story about Djodjo’s murder on Twitter with the message “#BlackKnivesMatter. The carnage continues into 2017. Any protest from the ‘community’? Thought not.”

This phenomenon is well-known to the knife community at large. For example, New York’s restrictions on “gravity knives,” enforced with enthusiasm in New York City, levy an oversized impact on minority groups

That this toxic stew of tunnel vision, racial bias and misleading terminology should finally express itself in a historic first for murders in London shouldn’t come as a surprise. It should come as a warning. If the root of “knife crime” isn’t dug out, London may, unfortunately, find itself positioned at the floor of a rising trend, not the ceiling.


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