Monday, July 14, 2008


Is Fear of Knife Crime Exaggerated?

We seem to be in the middle of yet another media inspired bout of hysteria- this time over knife crime. I'm not saying there isn't a major problem here, merely that it's being blown out of proportion. Close attention to the figures published in May reveals that the British Crime Survey- based on a 40,000 strong group of respondents- shows knife crime as stable over the last decade at 7% of all crime and 30% of all homicides. Additionally, the Met's most recent crime survey shows a drop of 15.7% over the past two years from 12,122 incidents to 10,220.

That's not to say that there is not an acute problem with some of kind of knife related incident taking place every hour, four times the rate of gun crime. Moreover, knife crime affects young people-those aged 17-20- disproportionately; is often involved in the increased incidence of 15-16 year old crime; while the Youth Justice Board's recent survey revealed a 12% increase in teenagers carrying knives since 2002.

But a few high profile knifing incidents involving celebrity connections, plus our national propensity for hand wringing, have ratcheted up a genuine concern into unnecessary panic. The Times leader today points out that:

The Metropolitan Police recorded 70 knife killings last year: the same as a decade ago.

It also questions Cameron's 'Broken Society' claim:

There has never been a time when our society has been richer, lived longer, been more tolerant, guaranteed women greater opportunities, cared better for the sick and disabled or done more to provide education for all. There are few places in the world that are better to live in than Britain - more law-abiding, more civil and more stable.

When that bastion of the Establishment, The Thunderer, tells us to 'calm down, calm down', perhaps we ought to take note.

I hope that you won't think me too complacent when I say that one of my Hughes rules is that if something's in "the papers" there almost certainly isn't much of it about. Newsmen prefer the unusual to the everyday. Thus Bird Flu, MRSA and murders get big headlines while the forty plus people killed in road crashes each week get barely a mention....
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