How many times have you seen a reference for “Youth Violence” this week? It seems that pretty much every time we pick up a newspaper or switch on the TV news these days there’s yet another reference to it. Sadly very often where knives have been used. What used to be referenced as violent crime has now become “Youth Violence” if the perpetrators are under 25. But is it doing anything more than accentuating the problem by seeing the term turned into a virtual brand? Or worse…Branding!
I think it has led to extremely disproportionate stereotyping of BME (Black minority ethnic) youths especially those coming from areas where an above average crime problem is reported. Where theses areas are already socially challenged due to low levels of average income per household seeing them fall below the poverty threshold we have almost a perfect storm of social harm affecting young people if they are not able to attain a good enough standard of education enabling them to find employment.
With extremely high unemployment prevalent among young people in London we have a toxic mix of negative ingredients Hardly surprising therefore that when they are being heavily targeted by the big brands with consumerism, crime becomes an option for some with low self esteem one of the main factors. Where there is also a lack of hope ambition is thwarted and replaced by a survival mentality. This is where many end up drawn to the gang culture we hear so much about. I personally think the whole gang issue is over hyped by the authorities and the Police especially, but also by the media where it seems to suit them to have the problem labelled in this way.
Organised crime gangs have been around in London for centuries. When England won the World cup in 1966 the Kray twins gang was dominating East and North London while the equally notorious Richardson gang held sway over most of South. Today if you believe the hype their are literally hundreds of gangs operating across the 32 Boroughs with their turf wars focused around inner city post codes. “Organised crime gangs” or disparate groups from the same socially deprived backgrounds indulging in criminal activity? The second option doesn’t quite sound so exciting a label does it?
Society needs to do more to help the disadvantaged BEFORE the stage of turning to crime is reached. Most poignantly though in my opinion the biggest onus is on society itself to own the problem of violent crime and reclaim the title ownership given to young people. It is not “Youth violence” it is “violence” pure and simple and where weapons are involved it is violent crime.
Young people are being marginalised by this attaching of a label and the racial profiling that goes with it in our inner cities. This is especially evident where stop and search is applied. It is clear where knife crime is a problem then this tactic will continue to be seen as a deterrent and to keep the innocent protected and safe and as such I don’t think it should be discontinued. I do think the racial profiling has to stop though and at the same time the elephant in the room regarding the disproportionate actual use of knives by black youths needs to be discussed more openly. We are never going to see a problem solved if we close our eyes to its existence and the statistics are beyond argument. Why this has come about is another issue altogether of course and is steeped in Socio-economics and demographically deep rooted society problems. Society itself being the predominant guilty party for the cause and consequence without a shadow of a doubt in my mind.
The work we embarked on with the One Big Community (1bc) project in 2013 will I hope help to unravel some of the underlying problems especially in terms of how violence has been manifesting in the lives of young people at such an early age to the point it has become normalised to so many especially those in poorer communities.
Many factors have contributed to this and this is where the work carried out by the 1bc team was so invaluable. Over the last 12 months we have assembled a super team of professional advisers and community experts to help shape the final stage of the projects delivery “Sounding Out London” – We hope the final outcome will be a comprehensive solution recommendations based report to both the London MP’s who operate on the front line of the problem as it were and also to the new Mayoral regime settling into City Hall later this Year.
If this is a subject matter that interests you then you might also find my colleague Dr Leroy Logan MBE a good source of experienced comment and insightful opinion :
Thanks for taking the time to read and please feel free to leave a comment.