Opinion: Don’t militarise knife crime
PUBLISHED: 08:30 21 March 2020
In a world where words are more powerful than ever, and the soil of British society is fertile with fear, it has never been more important to be perceptive about the way we talk about issues, most notably knife crime.
The language we use around knife crime has become somewhat militarised. Children have become soldiers; boroughs have become territory; gangs have become armies. This idea is enforced when politicians talk about the “war on knife crime” – they are playing into the militarisation of an issue that should be classed as a public health crisis.
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If knife crime is to be deemed as a public health crisis then this should be reflected in the rhetoric we use regarding the issue. The knife crime epidemic needs to be addressed effectively like other health issues: by identifying the symptoms early on and treating the illness immediately before it spirals out of control.
The social and economic indicators of knife crime are clear: poverty, school exclusions, and lack of education are all symptomatic of knife crime. An early-interventionist approach in tackling knife crime targets the root causes and focuses on those who are most vulnerable. The Ben Kinsella Trust (a charity based in Islington) is a shining example as they host interactive workshops targeted at primary school children and educates them about making sensible choices around knife crime.
Furthermore, with the rhetoric currently used regarding knife crime it is easy to become desensitized and obtuse. It is important to remember that real young lives are being lost, but also to note that an incident involving knives and young people is rarely ever spontaneous. There are so many factors that funnel into the eventual stabbing and using dismissive language around the topic absolves many parties, such as schools and governments, when they should be criticised for their failures.
The response I have seen to knife crime in the borough has been from under-funded charities, broken families and healing communities. If these groups can deal with the aftermath of knife crime, then the government should be expected to do more in finding a cure, and a change in rhetoric would be a good start.