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London Is Reeling From Youth Knife Crime

March 28, 2010

Again.

This has not been a good week for the young in this city. On Thursday, news came through of a young man attacked with a knife and killed by a group of other youngsters at Victoria station in the rush hour. It has since transpired that the young man was 15, that rival school gangs were having a fight and that he was chased into the station, which he hoped would be a place of safety. Unfortunately, it wasn’t as these people, who clearly had no shame, went for him at the ticket office in full view of commuters and tourists. Because there’s usually a large police presence at possibly the busiest mainline station in London, a lot of the youths involved were picked up quickly and found to be in possession of a number of weapons including two knives. They were tooled up for a big one. At the time of writing this, 19 of them have been held for questioning. I was still getting my head around that horrible event when this morning I heard about a 17 year-old youth who became another victim of the knife. He was attacked at around 2am in a park at Stamford Hill, North London. Apparently he was an aspiring footballer. He may have been at the start of this weekend, but not anymore. We’re nearly at the end of March, not even the first full quarter of 2010 and there are already five dead children through knife attacks. Compared to other places in the world it may be small potatoes, but to us, one dead child is one too many. We are now left wondering if it’s going to be 2008 all over again where we had a grand total of 30 dead by the time the year was over.

Because I’m Officially Old™ I don’t have the mind of a teenager, but I try and remember when I used to be at school. Fights have always happened, inside and outside of school. It’s nothing new. I remember rival groups meeting up at parks for fights. There would also be individuals, from different schools or in different classes within the same school who’d get ready to square up. News of the fight would spread like wildfire among pupils who would then be the teatime audience at whatever scrap was happening that week. They’d be screaming: “fight! Fight!” like a baying crowd at a cage fight. I don’t think I ever remember knives being used. They proved their mettle by going organic, using their fists and/or feet to cause damage. This was literally old school. I’m neither advocating, nor glorifying fighting amongst children. I’m just stating what it used to be like. There were bloody noses for sure, but no one died. Now a fight between youths in London can lead to an early grave, because they feel the need to tool up to prove their manliness in a fight.

There’s something very wrong here and although I know most children are just getting on with living and doing well, there are enough of them on the opposite end of that spectrum to be of real concern. And it is a real concern, because it affects our children and by extension, whether you’re a parent or not, the rest of us. How do we reverse this current trend? Maybe it’s just the age we’re living in, but do we have to accept it? I’d like to know what teenagers and young people are like in other countries, if anyone is willing to tell me. How’s the interaction with adults? How’s the schooling? And where’s their place in society? Any solutions would also be welcome.

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24 comments

  1. I can tell you that what you’re describing sounds very similar to what I see here. I work as a police sergeant in the south east us.

    I’m not sure what the solution is, other than parental engagement that makes the “family” of the gang less attractive.

    Once an incident starts it is amazing the atrocities groups like that will commit against others. The group energy feeds the individuals and vice versa, frightening.


    • Yes, it’s a circle of hell until something, or someone breaks it. Thanks for letting me know what it’s like at your end. As the sarge in Hill Street Blues used to say: “Let’s be careful out there.”


  2. Sounds like the NYC of my youth when gangs ran rampant and the knife was the weapon of choice. We in the US have always looked upon England as a paragon of non-violence. Sad to hear about the proliferation of these unhappy events.


    • It saddens me even more, believe it.


  3. Oh dear, this is dreadful. Back in the day, it was something if there was even a fistfight. I don’t understand why these children haven’t been taught to value life and that it is precious. I am so terribly sorry for the parents.

    I live in the Washington, DC Metro Area and it makes no sense that there is so much violence. I used to go out all time of day or night and it was 98% safe. I am glad I am not growing up nowadays. I would always be paranoid.

    As far as these horrible murders, they need to attack this headon and outlaw gangs … period.


    • I wouldn’t want to be a teenager now. There have always been pressures at that crucial time of your life, but what’s happening now is ridiculous. Unless we live in a totalitarian state (and some believe Great Britain PLC is already on its way), outlawing gangs won’t work – as much as we’d like it to.


  4. I think the scene is similar in Australia.I grew up just like you, where fights were rarely involved weapons, or children dying.
    It is just too common these days to hear of knive attacks or fighting amongst youths.
    There is also a lot of debate over the fact that weapons have been introduced with the increased rate of immigrants. This is of course, naive and ignorant, however a hot topic in the news at the moment.
    Let’s hope something changes, before this snowballs any further…


    • Oh yes, that old saw, the immigrants.

      I deliberately didn’t put the ethnicity of the people involved because the main point is that this is a graphic example of the disconnection some children have from the rest of society and something needs to be done to reverse it. There are people out there doing great work, trying to do just that, but it’s a small number and a slow process. In the meantime, others will just bitch and blame. Some newspapers had said the kids involved were mostly Afro Caribbean or Somalian. Now a fair amount of this particular crime does appear to be among minorities, most of which were born here, by the way and are therefore not immigrants, but there is plenty of knife crime and violence in places like Glasgow, where most of the inhabitants are white. What are we to make of that, then? Will we tar all of Glasgow’s youth with that brush?


  5. It may be incredibly old fashioned of me but I think television and similar media has to accept a fair share of the ‘blame’ for the state of affairs.
    Bad parenting and deprivation too but many of these children, and they are children really, do not actually understand that sticking a knife in someone ends a life or if they do they do not place any value on that life. They are numb to death and hate etc by shows, music videos and all the accoutrements of our modern day living.
    Me me me – people are more and more focused only on themselves and what they want (and they want it now). There seems to be no ‘brakes’ anymore and it keeps getting worse.


    • It’s a combination of so many things. Ultimately, we need to find a way, or many ways, to bring back the ‘we’ without killing the ‘I’. Those are the brakes we need.


  6. The youth are out of control all around the world, here in the US there’s children who disrespct their elders alot regardless if its their parents, teachers or others. The education system is not the best right now either. All to many school shootings in recent years, suicides, teen pregnacies…etc I have heard all types of things about how dangerious certain parts of London was…not knowing if it was true or just rubbish talk. Hopefully the UK will get things sorted out with the youth and the knife sitautions. Truly hate to hear of bad things especially to the kids it just breaks my heart.


    • Webmistress, I really should be in bed by now (it’s 1.15am in London), but I had to respond. What’s happening to our youth is just plain wrong isn’t it? How could I possibly forget about the school shootings that have happened in your country over the last 10(?) years, something I still don’t understand. I wouldn’t want you to think that London is full of rampaging children with knives, but just like a drop of ink pollutes a clean glass of water, the minority causes an awful lot of grief and pain. I suppose it’s good that we’re still shocked and appalled by it, because if this were to become so commonplace that it didn’t make the news anymore, we’d all be stuffed.


      • Yes we have had our fair share of terrible things involving crimes against children by children. I seriously think the reason for this happening here or anywhere else is to much telly and not enough proper parenting. Alot of the time parents dont have the time it takes to bring a kid up, with that lack of attention, love and over all caring…the youth just go mad at times.


  7. I don’t know if this is a relevant comment or not, but I would like to say that if kids nowadays grow up reading Enid Blyton like I used to when I was a kid, the streets would be safer for everyone.

    One way to tackle this gang epidemic would be for the police to set up a special unit just for tackling gang-related problems. I read somewhere that Italy has such a special police unit to deal with the Mafia. They were allowed to use certain extra-legal tactics that normal law enforcement officers weren’t allowed to use.

    Another way is community policing. Neighbourhood Watch and all that. But I don’t know how successful that will be. Many Average Joe citizens are afraid to inform against known gangsters for fear of retribution.


    • The chances of getting back to Enid Blyton days are slim to nil. We have to work with what we have. However, there may be something in what you say about reading. It fires the imagination and gives you the power to express yourself in ways that may not be possible in school or work. As for the other ideas, community policing is a good plan, but the whole, or at least the majority of the community has to be involved, otherwise it’s just the blowing of hot air.


  8. very nice blog. I visit occasionally. Thought it was about time to leave a track of mine…


    • Yeah, leave that track, baby! Nice to know you pay a visit occasionally, Antonio. Don’t work too hard now.


  9. First, let’s put things into perspective. Most of the youth out there are trying to make good for themselves. It is typical that we focus on negativity because what sells papers is not the local gang of kids who attend school regularly and are making great progress but the local gang of kids that attack each other in broad day-light. Sometimes I think we like to feel the fear because it is us who lap up these stories.

    When I dare to step out into the community and meet young men and women what I see is not a thirst for killing each other but for life and to keep it for as long as possible so they can enjoy it. But many of them live in fear of being victim to gangs and this fear breeds suspicion and suspicion breeds paranoia and paranoia breeds lack of trust. Put all this into the mix and people become self preservationist: act first ask questions later – survival of the fittest.

    Another problem is the mixed messages sent out by these liberal societies. Our society insists that children have rights but then don’t help them to understand they also have responsibilities and the proper balance between the two. How can a child say ‘the way you look at me is disrepectful and I have to make you respect me by a) stabbing you b) shooting you c) beating you senseless’. Not, I have to make you respect me by showing you that I deserve your respect. A minority of these kids seem to think that the way to gain respect is through fear and terror. Quite clearly, they don’t respect themselves and according to the adage ‘until you first respect yourself you can’t respect others’.

    Respect!!!


    • Amy, I salute you!

      Thanks for giving an alternative view. I really appreciate it. Of course many youth are just getting on with living and for that reason alone, we should try and put things into perspective, as you say. It was my sadness and anger about the situation that led me to write this. Perhaps if I had sat back a bit and been more measured I could’ve written a different post, but there again, it bought you here to say your piece, so that’s good.

      I’ve been banging on for years about how rights have been given to children without teaching about the responsibility that goes with it. It’s difficult enough to negotiate that as a grown up. We, as adults clearly need to work harder to help children gain self respect that’s not dependent on the ‘hard power’ of violence and fear. It would be the ‘soft power’ of properly setting the boundaries and encouraging them to fulfil their potential. Not in the L’Oreal “Because I’m worth it,” way because that’s just indulgence and we’ve had more than enough of that, thank you. The evidence of that kind of living is here before us. But in a very practical solid way, we become the supporting stick that trains the sapling to grow into a tall strong, straight tree. Perhaps if we went back to that, or a version of it for this age, we would go some way to changing things for the better.

      Maybe that’s pie in the sky, but that’s what I think. Thanks once again Amy.


  10. The simple facts are that kids are no longer scared of adults. It’s usually parents from socially deprived areas that get a bad reputation for bringing up unruly kids but from what I’ve witnessed, middle class parents are appalling in disciplining their children. This whole notion of wanting to be ‘friends’ to their children is bizarre and the children find it weird too. Believe me, I’ve been talking to quite a few who desperately want their parents to behave like parents. Parenting in the West changes with marketing trends and TV shows rather than being rooted in what actually works and what children need. To be honest Britain never seems to have an easy relationship with its children; they either followed the Victorian motto of ‘children should be seen not heard’ or they just don’t parent them in the hope of being popular. Whichever stance you take, it seems as though British children just aren’t getting what they need. LOVE.


  11. Wow… That’s just terrible…
    Think of all the pain that their families will have to go through for the rest of their lives! I am a teenager, but I can’t imagine ever forcing that level of violence on to anybody else. How could they do that to other children… Don’t they think of the child’s family and friends or his/her future?!


    • When you’re unhappy and feel disconnected from the world, those thoughts don’t enter your head. We all have those moments, but for some, it leads to a fatal outcome.


    • Your right they are clearly not thinking of the parents, the kids futures or their own. Injuring a person is bad enough, however there’s been times when the kids have actually killed other kids and thought nothing of it…like it was realy childs play.



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