The UK's Love-Hate Relationship with Knife Crime

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The UK has a demented love-hate relationship with knife crime. It’s an epidemic eradicating our youth, yet as a society, we do little to nothing to tackle the true root of the problem, a lack of support for the working-class community. Every week you read a different headline, about yet another young male losing his life to knife crime, and that’s just the ones who make the headlines. In 2016, a knife or blade was used to commit a crime every 16 minutes somewhere in the UK, and over the years things have only gotten worse. During the first couple of hours of 2019, 2 young men were stabbed to death. This horror goes beyond just gang violence, young people are turning to knife crime regardless of gang affiliation.

Working-class youth are the primary victims of knife crime, but the media and government often shift the focus on their roles as the perpetrators of the crime. Yes, a large majority of knife crime offenders are young, however, they are still victims in their own right. Whether they are holding the knife or on the receiving end, the UK working-class youth has been failed by the government. The government constantly evades responsibility for knife crime by portraying our youth as immoral degenerates, with their media echoing their every inaccurate representation. When in reality, these ‘immoral degenerates,’ are simply products of an environment in which they have been neglected, robbed and shunned by the system.

Working-class neighbourhoods in the UK have for years been neglected by the government and treated like a lost cause. The government’s favourite response to a rise in violence, in this case, knife crime, is more police, more stop and search orders, just more restrictions on the lives of young people. Turning a blind eye to the toxic environment they have created through years of austerity. These so-called perpetrators have been caged in by the government’s lack of care, and are often left with one of two choices, kill or be killed. In 2021, the government pledged £30 million to help support UK police in tackling knife crime, yet in less than a decade youth services have seen an estimated 70% cut to their funding.

Young working-class people do not like the police, they do not see them as a source of security or protection. Instead, they see them as a potential threat or enemy. Therefore, investing millions of pounds into the police and increasing their powers is not a rational approach to tackling knife crime. These children and young adults do what they do because they have no alternative. The government has not provided them with a secure network where they can explore other life paths. In lieu, the British government promotes a system that hinders the lives of the working class. Youth centres are being shut down, public libraries are being demolished and replaced with artisanal coffee shops, while public schools are being privatised. And we all know the private sector favours the white middle and upper social class.

By investing in the community and helping it flourish, the government would be helping to shape an environment where young people also have the opportunity to thrive, rather than turn to a life of crime just to survive. In this day and age our young people are turning to knife crime as a survival tactic, to protect themselves against the classist and racist capitalist state that is the UK. They have been forced to believe that without these protections they will be swallowed up.

While the UK government is the key malefactor in knife crime, many attribute the spread of knife crime to how violence and the use of weapons are glorified across media. The UK’s entertainment scene is rampant with gang violence, and thus knife crime. As young people see their icons condone violent behaviour, they begin to justify it in their head and relate it back to their own lives. But the truth is these so-called glorifications of knife crime in the media are not that, they’re mere representations of the truth. Drill artists are constantly referencing the use of weapons in their music videos because this is a part of their truth. Their aim is not to promote gang violence but to share their story, just like most artists. So rather than shifting the blame to more people who have been failed by the system, the government should take accountability for its neglect of the young working class.

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