274 -Dangerous Fashion


This weekend int The Times, Matthew Parris dared to say that knife crime is a fashion. [1] While quite happy to agree with him that the word fashion can be extended to occasions where a sector of society might follow a trend, I was sufficiently intrigued by his words to follow up on his pointers to content.

Back in 2004, yes a whole half-generation ago, the City Bridge Trust commissioned Fear and Fashion [2].  This was a study to explore approaches to reduction in London of young people carrying weapons. 1 You might refer to the 2008 publication Saving Lives  from the Home Office 2 I've given a link to the archive The result, from a cursory read, was to encourage parenting. So a question then follows as to what changed to bring about a resurgence? Is this some sort of failure perhaps from whatever was encouraging parenting to cease having an effect? Does the resurgence apply to places where the supportive behaviour failed to occur? Is this entirely due to reduced funding in local government?

If you want to have a grip of the extent of violent crime, do read  [3] from that archive, which provides a range of data, all of which is a horrible indictment of a failing society. It is very clear that concern—and any subsequent action— about an issue is largely dependent on perception of risk, so the increased incidence of articles about, say, knife crime is it self helping raise the profile of the issue and so nudge it above the parapet of what it is what has concerns about. there comes, inevitably a point where not following the herd is more dangerous than agreeing with the herd. the problem with carrying any weapon is that its very accessibility virtually guarantees it will be used.  Do read source [3].  I found myself wondering if the ups=urge in knife crime comes at least in part because the funding that was stimulated in 2008-11 has lapsed and that the new wave of weapon-carrying is another generation of young people. That suggest to me that if any parenting was caused to change it too has fallen back and/or passed to another generation of youth. it is all very well fixing the short-term problem but if we learn that this is to be an ongoing education (with the associated costs) then we need to admit that the problem is actually something quite different at root; if we have created an environment where weapon-carrying is deemed sensible, not merely fashionable, then we need to change that environment for the better, and quickly.

If you're a teacher researching this topic, the action pack at the end of [3] looks like the material you want to use.

Referring to crime as being fashionable also occurred in 2000 [4]. Jack Straw, then Home Secretary, sopke of this at the publication of the British Crime Survey 2000. At the time there was a 29% rise in violence by strangers - The majority of mugging and robbery victims were 16-year-old school children, possibly attacked for their mobile telephones, training shoes or lunch money. Young people were also often the victims of the growing levels of violence by strangers, which was frequently alcohol-related.  ... The survey claimed that one of the factors for the falling crime levels, which mirror patterns in America, Canada and other European countries, was a broad change in attitude to crime among young people.   ...  Mr Wiles ( Paul Wiles, director of research at the Home Office) said: "There seems to be a change taking place, not just in this country but in a number of other advanced industrial societies and that change clearly signals something rather broader ... if this continues there will be a significant shift in crime through a number of countries compared to what has been going on in the last century."

The offence of carrying a blade has three relevant definitions {5, full] 

It is an offence under Section 1 of the Prevention of Crime Act 1953 for a person to have with him in any public place any offensive weapon without “lawful authority or reasonable excuse”. Section 1(4) of the 1953 Act defines "offensive weapon" as: “any article made or adapted for use for causing injury to the person, or intended by the person having it with him for such use by him or by some other person.” 

• Under Section 139 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 it is an offence for a person to have with him in a public place any article which has a blade or is sharply pointed, except a folding pocket knife with a cutting edge of three inches or less, without good reason or lawful authority. 

• Under Section 139A of the Criminal Justice Act 1988, it is an offence for a person to have an offensive weapon or a bladed or pointed article on school premises without good reason or lawful authority. 

Quite clear, then that possession in public is a crime and especially so at school, likely to lead instantly to fine but quite possibly a custodial sentence; the 2008-11 material suggests to me that many results were to be ordered by court to attend a behaviour adjustment course. At 16 and over, minimum custodial sentences are mandatory - you will go to prison. The number of identified crimes is horrendous, some 40,000 in 2017/8, with the recent minimum 25600 four years earlier. Fully half of these were recorded as assault with intent to cause serious harm, so in no way are these trivial affairs.

Fig 2.1 from source [5] is shows that there were more offences committed in all categories in 2017/18 compared to 2010/11. Since 2010/11: the total number of selected offences involving a knife or sharp instrument has increased by 23%; the number of threats to kill using knifes or sharp objects has almost doubled (increasing by 99%); sexual assaults and rape offences increased by 76% and 69% respectively. 

I have added Fig 7 from the same source for context, since it gives a longer time period. I see something of a repeating cycle in a saw-tooth way, with peaks at 2003, 2009, 2015 - a six year cycle which, if correct says this is going to get a good deal worse before it improves. More evidence, I suggest that we have an underlying problem a long way from being properly addressed. Source [5]'s full report is rich in content - do read it for yourself.

I had a look at the latest figures [6] which report that over the last year: robbery has continued to rise, this time by 17% to 81,000; that violent crime has not changed (it's still an amazing 1.4 million offences), but within that offences involving knives (or equivalent) has risen 8%, hospital admissions for such events has gone up 15%, homicide is up 14% and firearms offences have reduced by 4%. All of the low-volume, high-harm offences are in metropolitan areas, always mostly in London.  Quite clearly London is a different country and this only adds to reasons to stay away. Be aware that recorded crime reflects a change in policing quite as much as it reflects a change in the underlying events; it also reflects any change in the willingness to report crime or a class of crime. It is very difficult to extend the recorded figures to an estimate of what actually occurs, which is what the CSEW [6,7,8] attempt. Read them for yourself, though. To adjust your own perception of crime rates, do please have a look at [7], which looks at this problem constructively. For example, an incident recorded as violent does not necessarily result in injury to the victim - only half do. There is a distinct difference between violent crime with and without injury. 3  

DJS 20190312

[1] https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/few-dare-say-it-but-knife-crime-is-a-fashion-3fwgzlhhz

[2] https://1vfva1igmeah9lhs11aj1e1d-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/FearAndFashionEvaluationReport.pdf

[3] https://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20100408132733/http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/documents/violent-crime-action-plan-08/

[4] https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/criminal-activity-less-fashionable-for-young-634332.html

[5] https://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/SN04304  I like these; they're direct and content-rich, while pointing to sources. Top pic from here. Full report here, https://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/SN04304#fullreport

[6] https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/bulletins/crimeinenglandandwales/yearendingseptember2018

[7] https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/articles/howmuchdoyoureallyknowaboutcrime/2018-11-06

[8] https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/articles/thenatureofviolentcrimeinenglandandwales/yearendingmarch2018

1 The desired outcomes agreed for the projects’ work were:

  • Raised awareness amongst young people about the consequences of carrying and using weapons
    • Reduction in the frequency and patterns of young people carrying knives / weapons    
    • Reduction in the number of incidents using knives / weapons involving the key target group for this work    
    • Young people adopting alternative solutions to conflict resolution      
    • Young people reporting a reduction in the fear of crime        
    • Strong partnership structures established between partner agencies to tackle the issue      
    • Local strategies developed and implemented by partner agencies to discourage the carrying of weapons     
    • Models of good practice developed and disseminated / replicated      
    Lessons learnt from the work contributing to Government policies on this issue 

2   Saving Lives. Reducing Harm. Protecting the Public. An Action Plan for Reducing Violence 2008-11, Home Office, February 2008https://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20100408132733/http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/documents/violent-crime-action-plan-08/ 

3   Violent crime is where force is threatened or used. About half the time no injury occurs (England and Wales figures). The violence threatened or actual might be the objective (murder, rape, etc) or might be a means (part of a robbery, fore example). Look at [8]. The overall level of this in Britain has been steady recently and has trended slowly downwards in the last 20 years. Non-injury violent crime includes minor assault (what rugby and soccer players do a lot, including punching and kicking), harassment (e.g. stalking) and abuse (e.g racial abuse, possibly with disturbance of the peace). The recorded figures for the CSEW do not include what occurs in group residences such as halls of residence, institutions and hotels. Do not confuse the police recorded crime figures with the Crime Survey. The survey attempts, by questionnaire, to estimate what is not reported, so it is (obviously) going to be bad at reflecting low-volume crimes, however serious. So the survey is more likely to indicate levels of knife possession but a bad predictor of murder levels.  Even the violent incidents with injury are mostly minor. That might well be part of the problem with knives; the level of likely injury is significant in comparison with the previous equivalent offence from hands and feet.

Email: David@Scoins.net      © David Scoins 2018