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Another day, another knife crime announcement

The knife crime debate continues.

Following the Downing Street Summit on knife violence on 2nd April, Sajid Javid, the Home Secretary, made a speech on the subject in London on Monday. He talked of his childhood experience of growing up in a poor neighbourhood affected by crime and how he avoided a potential life of crime. He didn’t, though, give any consideration to the idea that engaging young people affected by the issue is pivotal in finding answers.

In my opinion, the message from this speech had more to do with confirming a comforting narrative for middle England than seriously seeking to address the root causes and find the solutions to serious youth violence.

The Home Secretary’s announcements on knife crime over recent weeks have had an over-emphasis on enforcement measures, more stop and search and knife crime ASBO’s for children. This is unsurprising; it follows a typical pattern when there is a moral panic around crime.

“Not being able to arrest our way out of serious violence’ has become a mantra for politicians and senior police officers, whilst they simultaneously promote more and more enforcement-led responses and demean the social interventions that are not only necessary but more effective in diverting young people away from crime.

The pattern is clear - talk about addressing the social causes of crime while promoting more punitive measures.

Perhaps a more useful approach would be for politicians to actually speak to – and listen to - young people affected by knife crime. Why not visit youth and community groups where young people, both the victims of knife crime and those who carry knives, talk about their lived experience? Why not visit HMP Feltham YOI, where young people are locked up for 23 hours a day and which was recently the scene of violent incidents?

They may find the answers they need to effectively address the issue of youth violence.

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