Summary of the discussion
We discussed the newspaper reports of knife crime and multiple killings in London, mainly among young black men. Cressida Dick, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, was reported as blaming social media for magnifying the cases, and multiplying the numbers becoming involved in each incident. But others (including many young people themselves) denied this- at least that social media had little or nothing to do with the causes of the growth in these murders.
David Lammy, the MP for Tottenham, was reported as criticising Sadiq Khan for not being active enough in combating the upsurge. There were also reports of Mafia-type gangs based in Eastern Europe, trading cocaine and other drugs, involving young people and escalating the violence with “turf wars” between local groups trying to control their “area” and deny others access.
How far is the growth of youth unemployment, and the cutbacks in youth services (youth clubs and paid professional youth workers etc) a factor in the failure to establish relationships with young people early enough to prevent their recruitment into gangs?
[There was a letter to newspapers later, on the anniversary of the murder of Stephen Lawrence, which claimed that the perceived lack of response by the police to racist attacks at that time had convinced many young black men that they had to protect themselves by carrying knives- it would be good to have further evidence to support or counter this]
Is the Government’s attention being taken up too much by Brexit, Austerity and the National Debt? Unemployment has been used as an economic “tool” to control inflation, since the failure of the “prices and incomes” policies of the 1960s. So is youth unemployment and disillusionment one consequence of this political decision? Social structures (including family loyalty and cohesion) can be seriously undermined by unemployment, and London risks becoming more “tribal”, with deepening divisions between rich and poor, ethnic groups etc. If one answer is to increase the number of apprenticeships, where is the money to come from- by increasing taxes, cutting the pay of company directors, or recovering profits salted away in tax havens?
There is a contrast with Glasgow, which until recently suffered from a similarly high rate of crime, violence and murders, but where action was taken: https://stv.tv/news/features/1411879-knife-crime-london-looking-to-scottish-prevention-model/ https://www.theguardian.com/membership/2017/dec/03/how-scotland-reduced-knife-deaths-among-young-people
A recent report by Oasis, the organisation set up by Steve Chalke, a London Baptist minister (copy attached), suggests that the root causes of some young people being drawn into Islamic extremism, knife and drug crime or Right-wing political violence are the same- political disaffection and a sense of alienation from wider society. Different things “attract” them, and restore for them a sense of lost identity, depending on what is “culturally” nearest to them. Trying to tackle these “results” alone (for example through the Government’s “Prevent” programme) will not work- society needs also to deal with the underlying causes.