The current climate of knife crime in the UK and in particular London scarcely allows for the reporting of good news stories from the capital.
Serious injuries and deaths perpetrated with the use of knives continue to dominate national and regional news in the UK.
Right across the country, day on day, reports of these heinous crimes dominate the airwaves. Indeed, the stories are second only in headline terms to those relating to the UK’s imminent departure from the European Community family of nations.
This week, London, the capital of knife crime, has seen stabbings at a rate that is frightening in the extreme. Reports indicate some of these stabbings are randomly done and form a part of the violence that has brought fear and nervousness into the communities.
An interesting example of how far the unease has spread into our society is evidenced by the recent remarks of former prime minister Tony Blair. Mr Blair said in an interview that there “was an emergency on our streets, because it is creating a climate of fear,” and he added “I know I am more worried about my children. What it means in some of our key cities is people are not feeling safe, people are reacting to their fear of what might happen to them and this has a cascade effect.”
The former prime minister who served in that office for ten years tellingly added: “If you are going to defeat something like this, right from the very top of government you have got to have an absolute focus, total determination and do whatever it takes to get the problem solved.” Mr Blair said he felt police are losing the battle against knife crime.
Whether by coincidence or not, in the aftermath of Blair’s comments prime minister Theresa May and Home Secretary Sajid Javid now appear, belatedly it is suggested, to recognize the highly visible and underlying damage these crimes are inflicting on the fabric of the communities. These issues must be tackled aggressively and successfully if we are not to reach the point of no return. Ten years ago a similar problem threatened to overwhelm the city of Glasgow in Scotland but today, the incidence of knife crime in that city has been greatly reduced by 50 per cent.
Mrs May, in recently convening a meeting of some 100 members of the community in order to share ideas on how to win this battle, has now taken a step in the right direction. She has labelled knife-crime as a disease which needs to be eradicated before it becomes an epidemic.
However, the authorities in search of solutions have so far not publicly come up with suggestions other than that police operations of stop and search are the answers to solve these problems.
Consequently, the Home Secretary in a recent bulletin announced that the police are to be given greater powers when they conduct the search and power movements. He said he is making it easier for officers to search people without reasonable suspicion in places where violence may occur. Mr Javid said: “The police are on the front line in the battle against serious crime and it is vital we give them the right tools to do their jobs.”
One of the major changes in operations is that Inspectors will now be able to sanction any action whereas before only a more senior ranked officer could give authority to act. Another notable change is that there will be a lower threshold required to initiate the process. Police now only need to reasonably believe serious violence “may occur, not that it will.”
Looming large on the other side of the argument about stop and search and whether it is effective are those who see such action as an infringement against one’s civil rights and liberties. They guardedly accept that it can be a useful tool if correctly executed. And, in furtherance of their argument, they cite the fact that black people are nine times more likely to be stopped and searched than their fellow white citizens. Their point is that the operation is discriminatory against black people and they appear not to give it their wholehearted support.
However valid these issues are, they could be momentarily put to one side for further debate. What matters most now is how together we combat this monster that is present amongst us and in urgent need of slaying. Police have reported that hundreds of weapons have been confiscated and that suggests that some likely offenders have been disarmed and by extension, a small step towards public safety has been taken. I am not sure that Jo-Public is likely to worry too much about the method or rationale used to seize these weapons.
It is to be hoped that leaders in the community will make alternative recommendations as to the best ways to tackle these crimes. Whilst it is always of paramount importance that we guard against possible abuses of our civil rights and liberties, it is equally important that those of criminal and vicious malicious intent are not allowed to hide behind the veneer of ‘civil rights and liberties’.
There must be no protection under this guise and if stopping and searching 50 innocent citizens is the price we pay for one saved life, then that is a price worth paying.
Vincent “Boo” Nurse is a Barbadian living in London who is a retired land Revenue Manager, Pensions and Investment Adviser. He is passionate about the development of his island home and Diaspora.