Amidst the chaos of the last year, it’s relatively easy to forget the grave social issues that have gripped us as a nation for many years. Just in the last few months, we have seen a surge in youth violence and knife crime, despite the ongoing lockdown. But for many of us living in major cities, this is nothing new or broadly abnormal. Knife crime has become just another story on the news cycle, another number added to a growing and alarming statistic. Last year saw 262 deaths involving a knife, an increase from the previous years.
Put that into perspective, and witness a heartbreaking reality. That’s 262 young people, with dreams, aspirations, potentials, robbed by the strike of a blade. That’s 262 mothers and fathers shaken, as they witness the tragic death of their child, a feeling no parent should endure. That’s countless young people traumatized, no longer able to enjoy the company of their friend. These are the stories of thousands, who’ve seen their loved ones taken from them so early and ruthlessly. For too long we have normalised this grave injustice.
Despite the vigorous and heartfelt attempts by campaigners and activists to solve this dire problem, little genuine and substantial change has been made. It has been a colossal and harrowing failure, summed up perfectly by former Member of Youth Parliament for Camden, Athian Ake, “Never has so much been lost for so many, because of the indecision of so few”. Indecision it indeed is; all the baseless words from politicians on all sides has done little for the innumerable young people no longer with us.
Twice in a row, young people in London voted Knife Crime to be the most prominent issue, in the annual make your mark ballot. I took a personal interest, on this issue, during my term as a Member of the Youth Parliament for Hillingdon, providing a voice for the concerns of youth the borough. The effort of young activists has been vital in raising awareness, showing the great heroism of our age, but I fear that their endeavour will render hopeless if no credible solution can be obtained.
It is time we halt the fallacious idea that those perpetrating these crimes are driven by pure evil intent; rather treat them as victims of a broken system that has rendered their future full of misery and anguish.
However, I am not here to dwell on past failure. I want to envision a fresh reset to the momentous battle against this scourge. I propose a solution that is hardly new or starkly innovative. It has been advocated by many, but to the misfortune of many, on the deaf ears of those in power.
Anybody that has invested even a speck of toil on this affair will understand a too well-known fact; youth violence is bred by “poverty, austerity and a lack of opportunity”. There can be no doubt that the underfunding of youth services and growing socio-economic disparity has driven up crime rates. Nobody denies personal responsibility; the toxic and egotistic attitude of some young people that have contributed to this calamities situation. Nonetheless, this has been profoundly exacerbated by poverty and its consequences. It is time we halt the fallacious idea that those perpetrating these crimes are driven by pure evil intent; rather treat them as victims of a broken system that has rendered their future full of misery and anguish.
Therefore, the basis of any solution seems fairly simple. Invest in our young people. Invest in education, youth services, youth entrepreneurship and enterprise. Invest in adequate housing and a welfare state that can truly provide a sustainable and comfortable life. Of course I do not delude myself with the idea that pouring money into a few programs will render crime none-existent. But this epidemic, built on neglect and incompetency, can only be solved first if we fund services appropriately and sufficiently.
If we deal with poverty, we can reduce crime, not only of tremendous benefit for the many communities that have suffered for so long but a benefit for all.
This isn’t a policy ripped from the red pages of a communist manifesto. This is a truly attainable and progressive solution to what has become a grave issue of our age. Its time we stopped treating investment as a method of pouring money into “low-lives” and people ”useless” to society. If we invest, we not only stop the perpetuating cycle of pain and death, we provide a prosperous future. We provide an opportunity for young people to explore their talent, and in return grow a better and more affluent society.
If we deal with poverty, we can reduce crime, not only of tremendous benefit for the many communities that have suffered for so long but a benefit for all. Nobody prospers if we live in a crime-ridden society. Having said that, it would be grossly irresponsible to pretend this as a matter, not in need of law enforcement. A society that lacks respect for authority ceases to flourish. Nevertheless, we cannot police our way out of the problem. The inept approach of previous governments has shown how ridiculous and ineffective this position is. Despite my prodigious gratitude and admiration for our policing service, their cold and commanding attitude to young people has done little to help the cause. We need to build bridges between communities and the police, sowing seeds of trust rather than animosity.