When discussing the violence inflicted on young people by their peers in London’s inner-city area, it is important to remember that these young people have families grieving for their loss and are not just the topic of another think-piece flung into the wider web or a tool aiding different political agendas. Consequently, I was, at first, apprehensive about writing an article about this sensitive but often discussed issue as I believe I do not have the depth to impose my idea of a solution on something so complex. However, to find solutions, it is important to attempt to look at the causes of the problem.
Knife crime, or rather violence amongst the youth regardless of the weapon used, has plagued this city for as long as I can remember. As of recent, the media has been flooded with reports of young people being killed or injured which would lead people to conclude that crime has suddenly increased in the last couple of years. Others, on the other hand, would argue that there has not been an unexpected increase in violence but rather, the media is choosing to report on incidents where they would not have done before. Media outlets, as we all know, are very effective in indoctrinating the public with certain ideas that may benefit certain groups, but, we must be careful in jumping to accept this theory as youth violence is a very real problem that cannot be ignored.
Trawling through the cesspit that is the comments section of the Daily Mail’s articles you will find comments blaming the recent surge in knife crime on London’s British-Pakistani Mayor Sadiq Khan, immigration and even the ‘stupid soft liberals’ causing this ‘breakdown of society’. I do believe that the Government needs to do more to support youth initiatives that work tirelessly with limited resources to provide help and care to those affected directly by knife crime. However, how far is it the government’s responsibility to micromanage the public when those committing these offences, usually have at least one parent that has raised them?
This leads onto the next area that must be analysed: the question of nurture, the environment in which these young people are raised in. As I can only comment from my perspective as a second-generation Somali immigrant to the UK, I have often heard correlations being made between the absence of a strong father figure in the household and the violence we see today among the Somali youth in this city. It is very easy to argue that children living in a single mother household have a higher susceptibility to entering a life of crime, but this argument is an easy one to make because it is a lazy one. What happens when there are two parents in the home and their child is still a victim of knife crime? Victims of youth violence, firstly, do not necessarily have to be involved in the world of crime and drugs to become a victim. Secondly, regardless of how stable a young person’s home is, we cannot overlook the immense impact the outside environment has on their lives. Residing in an area where the presence of crime is large, resources are scarce, and the police appear to only be present to harass and abuse young black people, it is not complicated to see why so many young men find themselves in dangerous situations.
Whether you believe the problem lies with the glamorization of crime and violence in ‘Drill’ music, unstable home environments or a lack of religious practices, the harm that knife crime inflicts on communities is very present. Be it young people suffering from PTSD after witnessing their friends being attacked, or the attackers themselves suffering a heavy burden on their conscience and mental health, violence does not discriminate in how it infiltrates the psyche of people. This piece is in no way attempting to place the blame solely on one of the issues I have highlighted above as this issue is extremely complex, nor do I attempt to come up with a solid solution. Nevertheless, I hope that if there is a way to resolve this issue that has tormented so many, it is found quickly.