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Sharper approach needed to tackle rising knife crime

PUBLISHED: 10:28 08 January 2008 | UPDATED: 14:39 07 September 2010

The number of serious criminal incidents involving knives in the past year has been truly alarming, and it is not just the authorities and those who have to live with the tragic consequences who should be concerned. It was recently reported that in some p

The number of serious criminal incidents involving knives in the past year has been truly alarming, and it is not just the authorities and those who have to live with the tragic consequences who should be concerned.

It was recently reported that in some parts of the capital, 10 per cent of boys aged 11 and 12 have carried a knife or other weapon and by the age of 16, the figure rises to 24 per cent who have carried a knife and 16 per cent who had attacked somebody intending harm.

Little comfort can be drawn from the fact that statistically speaking, the problem is significantly worse in south London. The teenage knife culture is alive and well on the streets of boroughs much closer to home.

Carrying knives has become distubingly fashionable among young people, and the danger is that once issues like street cred and peer pressure enter the equation, the problem is likely to get worse.

Unlike guns, these killer devices are easy to access, can be legally purchased even by teenagers and all of us in our own kitchens have sharp, long-bladed knives of the type most likely to inflict serious injury if used in anger.

Two respected consultant in emergency medicine at West Middlesex University Hospital have asked the Home Office to ban the sale of long-pointed knives. Interestingly, they have pointed out that as far back as 1669, King Louis XIV of France noted the association between domestic knives and violence and passed a law demanding that the tips of all table knives should be ground smooth, rendering them much less lethal. Nearly 350 years later, the same serious concerns about the weaponry exist in this country but there is no equivalent legislation.

How can the tide be turned? It goes without saying that parents must be vigilant, and that schools, working in association with the police, have an important role to play by ensuring that knives are not brought into schools, and that teenagers are aware of the associated dangers.

But when one considers that a recent Home Office amnesty took 90,000 knives out of circulation, the scale of the problem becomes clear.

The same government department should be seriously considering backing up its efforts with some effective legislation before more young people lose their lives at the point of a blade.

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