Section 1: The Problem Of Knife Crime In Britain
On June 29th last year, sixteen-year-old Ben Kinsella was celebrating the end of his GSCE with his friends in Shillibeers Brasserie Bar, in London. During their celebrations trouble broke out between Ben’s friend Alfie and a man called Osman Ozdemir. Having being separated by security they were told to leave the bar, during this time a friend of Ozdemir was heard saying “Tell your boy if he wants trouble, I’ve got my tool on me and it will open you up”. The dispute between Ben’s friend and Ozdemir went outside the bar were Ozdemir and his mate were glassed. Later that night on the way home Ben became separated from his friends, Ben who was alone became surrounded by Ozdemir’s friend Braithwaite and two other guys. As the three came towards him he was heard pleading for help and said “What are you coming over to me for? I haven’t done anything”. Moments later, Kinsella was kicked to the ground and received 11 stab wounds in five seconds, Ben Kinsella was pronounced dead at 07:24 as a result of blood loss from the numerous stab wounds.
Fear in Britain is on an increase, as there is an outstanding wave of knife crime among teenagers, following fifteen teenagers being murdered over the last year in London. Parents and the police worry this is just a start of a vicious cycle. The more stories and headlines portrayed by the media about knife crime are leading to more teenagers carrying knives to protect themselves.
The problem of knife crime in Britain may possibly have a number of reasons, for example in poorer cities in Britain, where mainly knife crime takes place individuals feel by carrying a knife with them they feel ‘powerful’ in ‘control’ and can gain respect from others. However some individuals feel by them carrying a knife they can protect themselves from others who carry knives.
Figures show only a small number of young individuals in Britain carry knives. In effect it could even be true to say the problem of knife crime is not becoming worse. Knife crime figures do not illustrate a clear image, for example, while the number of people prosecuted for carrying knives has increased in the last ten years, an important survey suggests the annual number of stabbings in Britain has been falling since the mid-1990s.
Although the question about knife crime persists, statistics show only a small percentage of individuals in Britain die in violent incidents. Britain has a total population of around 60 million, and in nine out of the last ten years there have been fewer than 1,000 murders.
What everybody agrees on is the broad view that knife crime is on the increase. The fear of knives has grown, and with it the number of young people who carry knives for protection has increased.
The report will go on to look at the extent of knife crime, and whether it is a predominantly worsening problem, I will also consider the problems with trying to measure knife crime. Further on the report will consist of the causes of knife crime, looking at the masculinities perspective and finally I will address the reduction of knife crime in Britain by discussing two policies that have been introduced in an effort to tackle the problem of knife crime.
Section 2: The Extent Of Knife Crime In Britain
When official statistics on knife crime are looked at they show a rather confusing notion. The data proposed over the last ten years of violent crimes such as knife crime in England and Wales has fallen and the handling of knives in mugging’s and robbery has dropped considerably since 1995.
Facts from ten years ago show 40% of murders that took place involved knives, however now it is less than 30% that is to say 230 out of 820 murdered last year. Twenty-eight people have been murdered by knives in 2008. Carrying knives or sharp objects by individuals is not only seen as a cool but also necessary. As the use of knives has become common, there appears an instant when carrying a knife becomes a rational choice. Between January and March 2009 statistics have fallen by 7% in the total number of offences involving possession of a knife. Knife crime events have stimulated the awareness of the public that crimes involving knives has become uncontrollable; however this is not sustained by the statistics.
The British Crime Survey, statistics show crime involving knives over the past year has stayed constant around 6-7% of all crimes including 30% of homicide. A recent figure released by the Metropolitan Police shows, knife crime has decreased by 15.7% over the past two years. One in five who were convicted of carrying a knife where between 10-17 years old in 2006 according to the Home Office Statistics.
Yet an incident relating to knife crime occurs every 52min. Also crimes related to knives are four more times common than gun crimes. Linked to this is the rise in the number of young teenagers carrying knives. The Youth Justice Board survey stated a 12% increase in the number of youths carrying knives since 2002.
The term knife crime is mostly used by the media. But the meaning of what this term is remains unclear. Knife crime potentially covers a number of offences which cause confusion in both definition and purpose of its occurrence. Evidently if a knife is carried in case of a robbery but is not used is seen as a knife crime.
A great deal of the media reporting and biased comments have been confusing, partly due to the lack of consistent data on knife crime also failing to represent known facts precisely. The media obsession on knife crime risks normalising things. Even though it is portrayed that many young individuals carry knives and kill each other, the statistics show the number of knife victims has been constant for the past decade contrasted with other countries in the world.
However the downside is the immense media exposure on knife crime is resulting in difficulty in effects of normalising it. Reports and critics placed by the media placing the thought that for teenagers having a knife on them has become a fashion statement. It can have the effect of becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy, distinct to guns or any other items. Getting hold of a knife is fairly simple. The frequently reoccurring statement that many youths don’t feel safe unless they are carrying a knife could unintentionally give teenagers the incorrect thought.
Knife crime following the death of youths holds great media interest in Britain. This has lead to the public in Britain considering the problem of violence among teenagers is out of control when actually this is not the case by given statistics.
The research carried out on knife crime should be quantitative in which self-completion surveys should be carried out. The questionnaires should be given to victims of knife crime, hospital staff police etc. These questionnaires will not be biased as responses will be from individuals who were involved in incidents relating to knife crime.
This type of research method will measure information on how individuals feel, think or act in certain whys. The media have portrayed a view that knife crime is becoming worse and is a predominantly black problem, where black people are seen to carry knives mostly in parts of London. This research method will allow data to be precise and correct. It will give an insight to the actual problem of knife crime as the response rate to this type of method is high individuals will carry out the questionnaire to express what they feel and think on this matter.
Section 3: The Causes Of Knife In Britain
The masculinities theory is defined as “the existence of multiple forms of masculinity; individually held and often highly fragile subjective identities of manhood socially constructed by men” (Colombo A, 2009). Men are not all seen as the same, and their masculinity can be formed and can be distinct by a number of social factors. Most teenage boys learn what society regards as being ‘real manhood’ from the media, school culture etc. The media does not teach males into considering that male-on-male brutality is suitable and acceptable. Boys are seen not to accept being insulted by the opposite gender (females). It is portrayed that boys are inferior and they should not be seen or act like girls.
Boys and men are seen to always display and show their alleged native masculinity by controlling and ridiculing other boys and men who are not considered to be real men. Masculinity is a view where for boys to be real men they have to be tough, heterosexual and have respect amongst others. If disrespected from other males must be challenged in which the boys display their masculine ability by fighting back. Media portrayal of male violence strengthens cultural myths regarding what is alleged to be normal and instinctive masculine behaviour. All boys are seen to have violent tendencies, so boys who don’t fight back or boys who don’t condone violence are seen as ‘a girls’ or even called ‘fags’.
During earlier periods the key purpose for youths to carry a weapon was down to the fact of having a high standing. Having a possession of a knife was symbolic. It was a rite of passage not only to manhood and independence but also an effort to shape out a definite style and nature of masculine identity with carrying a knife. Having possession of a knife was a way of showing ‘authority’ and ‘respect’, however for some that still remains. Having a knife is seen as a power issue. It is all about ego, for some it may be to do with replication. It is seen as something new that has to be done. Masculinity is revered and cannot be critiqued, boys are seen to be uncontrollable, blaming i.e. mothers for teen boy’s behaviour allows individuals to disregard that this matter is a male problem not a female.
Due to the male ego and what males have been characterised as by media etc, this is one of the causes of knife crime. When involved in a fight they will not think whether a knife should be used or even be carried, but due to the male ego and status they will use the knife regardless of the consequences they will face.
Rational choice theory method to crime causation is made up of a number of concepts. Criminal behaviour is the result of cautious reflection and notion. Crime which is committed is thoroughly thought about when considering factors such as money, revenge etc. individuals living in bad areas will think about carrying a weapon on them for protection whilst others from excitement of imposing pain on others, once this choice is made, offenders will decide whether to carry out this crime .
It is far easier to hold individuals responsible rather than seeing the issue is one of social conditioning and media-led ideas of what supposedly comprises a ‘real man’. The carrying of knives by young youths is mainly due to the worry of being bullied or being attacked by others, the view that all other teenagers carry knives, or even to gain street credit. Teenagers who carry knives and who are victims of knife crime face an overlap because a victim of knife crime may have been carrying a knife because they feel unsafe, their intention was not to stab someone just the thought of them carrying a knife will make them feel protected. Social perception and media views have led to individuals believing that the streets are not a safe place and knives are being used to protect themselves.
Finally masculinity theory where to boys it is all about the ego, they will not care what they do but they are not seen to back down or walk away from an argument etc. If they do then they will be seen as a loser etc. so they make sure they show their masculinity and make sure no matter what happens they can walk away with their held up high.
Section 4: Towards The Reduction Of Knife Crime In Britain
The first policy that has been introduced to tackle the problem of knife crime is that the government has stated they will add to the maximum penalty for carrying a knife in public without good reason from two to four years. They will also increase the minimum age at which knives can be bought from 16 to 18, and is allowing head teachers the authority to search students for unsafe weapons.
The second policy that has been introduced to tackle knife crime is a £3 million three year advertising operation, planned by youths for young people, to clearly get across the significance that carrying a knife can shatter lives and families.
The relative strengths of these policies being introduced are by increasing the age and penalty for individuals carrying knives and demonstrating a message of how a big on effect carrying a knife will have will show a message of how big the problem on knife crime is. These preventions will try and get out a message that carrying a knife has serious consequences on people and that it should not be done.
The relative limitations of these policies being introduced are that even though so much is being done to tackle knife crime, individuals have no fear of spending time in prison or even care what families etc of knife crime victims go through. To them it is about revenge to have a reputation within communities etc so people know who they are. Spending a couple of years in prison or getting caught with a knife is nothing serious to them as they might have friends who can carry out what they do if they go to prison. It is all about ego, reputation and revenge which lead to lives being taken. Young youths fear other teenagers more than the police; more offenders are being jailed for carrying knives, and the number of crimes dealt with relating to knives has fallen according to the Ministry of Justice Statistics.
I feel that to tackle knife crime and to overcome this problem, individuals should listen to the worries that young individuals have their need to consider their concern sincerely and tackle the essential matters. Rather than concentrating on new penalties for carrying out knives, the government should invest in better schools, open youth centres for kids to spend their spare time at. Ensure that young individuals particularly boys feel appreciated and when they leave schools and colleges there are opportunities out there for them to take on, rather than having nothing to do and turning to crimes such as knife crime. Knives are filling the expanding gap among those individuals to have jobs and a high status and those who don’t.
Columbo, A .(2009) Causes of Knife Crime. Lecture notes: Coventry University
N, Marfleet. (199) Why Carry a Weapon? A Study of Knife Crime Amongst 15-17 Year Old Males in London
Professor Y, Jewkes. () Media and Crime: A Critical Introduction (Key Approaches to Criminology)
S, Levete. () Gangs and knife crime
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