The United Kingdom’s rise in knife crime and youth/gang violence in the past year or two, specifically in the London area, is something that no citizen is able to be blind to.
In 2018, there were 132 homicides— the highest reported crime rate in the last decade.
On the 8th of January, 14-year-old Jaden Moody was stabbed to death in Waltham Forest, London. To make matters more heartbreaking, police say that Jaden is the youngest victim to die due to knife crime in London in the past year.
The question is, why is violence becoming more and more common within our youth communities? Youth violence is a nuanced subject with the cause having several contributing complexities, and it’s dire that we acknowledge what they are and how it is affecting England’s youth.
When discussing the cause of youth violence, many choose to look at it as a race issue with black and brown youths being at the centre, when in fact youth violence is an issue of poverty and austerity.
UK rapper, Professor Green told the BBC last year that poverty is to blame of the growing issue, not race. This was the response to the increase of stop-and-search by police last year.
Green made a post on Instagram last year and wrote:
“There had been a lot of reference to a statistic that it’s largely black youths stabbing each other – what was left out was that this is only true of certain areas, as anyone with a brain can work out, in more densely white populated areas, the face of knife crime is white”
As we have noticed, British media is biased in it’s reporting and are quick to project black youth as the faces of knife crime which goes on to reveal the institutional racism in the UK and its media. This projection and the criminalisation of black youth is then used to justify their biased stop-and-search tactic.
Many of those who find themselves falling into this life of gang/youth violence are victims of poverty and disenfranchisement. Too many times have the government let down the youth by cutting funding to after-school programmes, which largely affects predominately black and minority areas (though not to say predominantly white areas are not affected either.)
Tom Isaac, a youth worker that supports stabbing victims at a pediatrics unit in South London, said to The Independent, “Poverty is a big systemic issue. If a young person’s mum is working nights as well as days, and hasn’t got time, they’re left in the flat on their own. A lot of the time the parents don’t know what’s going on. They don’t have the time or the capacity.”
Lack of school funding can also be named, as this affects the quality of education that students receive and therefore are left unmotivated and bored so then they find somewhere else to turn their attention to and unfortunately that could be gangs. Blacks also receive unfair treatment in the classroom as they are more likely to be excluded, given detentions or receive harsher punishments than their white peers as they are stereotyped as badly-behaved and have their academic ability underestimated. According to a study by Warwick University, black (Caribbean) students are more than twice as likely to be identified as having behavioural, social or emotional problems than their white counterparts.
Unstable home lives are also attributed to youth joining gangs. If stability is not found at home, then they will look for it somewhere else, in a place where they can have what they presume to be a stable environment. Some may even have family involved in gang-related activity and are heavily influenced by that.
Many also place blame on the rising popularity of ‘drill.’ The controversial genre is accused of fuelling violence and heavily influencing youth and romanticising gang culture. A drill rapper named Incognito, who later died in a knife attack, even admitted to the genre’s influence on youth violence, though he also emphasized that it is often used as a scapegoat in order to overlook the other problems.
Youth-on-youth violence is an epidemic that needs to be addressed at its root, which is a compilation of several issues. Cuts to after-school programmes, school funding, police services as well as mental health services are all responsible for the rise of youth violence, especially when they tend to be fuelled by racism. Those who have witnessed such violence struggle to cope and develop PTSD, which when left unaddressed adds to the cycle of violence. They don’t feel safe in their communities and feel like they have to defend themselves and are blind to the fact that they are adding fuel to the fire.