Knife crime

London is a safe city, with relatively low crime and absolutely no ‘no-go’ areas, despite the scare stories put out by some US right-wing personalities and ‘fake news’ web sites. The murder rate in London – at 1.8 per 100,000 people in the year ending March 31 2018 – is around half that of New York (though it did briefly overtake that city earlier this year) and less than all of the  US’s 50 main cities, which are led by  Detroit on  39.7, New Orleans on 40.4 and Baltimore with an astonishing 55.8, over 30 times the London figure. Even this is topped by St Louis at 65.8, though this still puts it well behind cities in Venezuela, Mexico and Brazil, with, according to Statista, Los Cabos and Caracas more or less tying for top place at 111.

Even so, London’s figure of over 100 murders so far this year, showing a considerable recent increase, particularly with around 60 mainly youths being killed by knives and around ten shootings are worrying, and every single death is a tragedy for the victim and family.

So I welcome London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s announcement of a ‘Glasgow’ policy based on a public health approach, which saw the rate halved in that city, and hope it will have the same effect in London. London’s knife killings are largely of young people, particularly of young black men and are often linked with violence between gangs, though not all the victims are gang members.

Both shootings and stabbings are often linked with drug trafficking, and the legalisation of cannabis and the return to a proper system of regulated use of heroin by registered addicts would almost certainly lead to a considerable reduction in these killings, as well as in the huge amount of petty crimes carried out by people to pay for the high-price illegal drugs they need. Years of evidence show that our present approach to drugs just doesn’t work – or rather only works for the organised crime that supplies the drugs.

Problems with my train service meant that I arrived too late in Brixton to go the the 7th Day Adventist Church to photograph the ‘Be the Change’ march from there to Windrush Square. I tried to meet them on their way, but they took a different route to that I had thought most likely as it would have made the march more visible; by the time I had realised this and returned to the square they had arrived and the event there was beginning.

A gospel group sang, a preacher prayed and preached, there was more music and the congregation sang and danced, and there were placards ‘Knives Take Lives’, ‘We Care About Our Youths’ , ‘Be The Change’, ‘Knives Take Lives’ and ‘God Is Love’ , but spirited though the event was, it attracted little attention from the people of Brixton, and I think myself and a photographer friend were the only people there who would not normally be worshipping in that Brixton church, though a few walking past did turn and look as they walked.

While I’m sure the church is sincere and does good work, particularly among those families who attend, from what I saw at this event I think this  has little effect on the wider community. It needs wider initiatives such as that proposed by the Mayor – and changes in the way working-class communities are seen and regarded by the authorities – police, schools, councils and government etc – to produce the changes in society that would change lives for young people growing up poor and currently disaffected in cities such as London.

More pictures at ‘Be the Change’ Knife and Gun Crime.

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