Why Aren’t We Talking About What Can Be Done to Combat Knife and Gun Crime?

This week, the devastating news came. Four teenagers, Tanesha Melbourne-Blake, 17, and Amaan Shakoor, 16, and two yet to be named became the latest victims of the rising epidemic of knife and gun crime in the capital.

Much has been blamed by tabloid press for the rise in this violent crime. Former Met officer, Chris Hobbs, took to blaming (among many other factors, some of which are valid, some of which I would hasten to argue are not) rap music, declaring that ‘most London gangs have one of more rappers as their figureheads.’ Daily Mail published an article, blaming Xanax for leaving teenagers ‘zombified’. Others have blamed austerity and cuts in the police force for this marked increase, whilst some blame the watering down of stop and search policies, instead. Whilst there’s no denying that some of these may have contributed to the surge in knife and gun crime, we must address the facts. Rap music does not cause somebody to murder another. Drugs – although they may alter behaviour – cannot be directly blamed. The same can be said with regards to policies. Guns and knives have led to the deaths of these young persons.

The time has come for celebrities, MPs and the likes to stop tweeting consolations to the families of these victims, and to use their platform to address the root causes of this. Why aren’t people of influence opening the discussion on how knives and guns find their ways into communities? Why are we not questioning how gangs are operating on such a large scale?

A spokeswoman for Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, said in a statement, “The Mayor is deeply concerned by violent crime in the capital – every life lost to knife and gun crime is a tragedy.” Echoing his words, the spokesman for current Prime Minister, Theresa May, said, “There can be no place in our society for violent crime. The government is determined to do everything it can to break the cycle.”

Yet for all their words, where is the current action? How are these people in the highest positions of power collaborating with both communities and victims’ families to provide support in this time of need? These half-hearted comments do little to reassure both the public, and those who have been directly affected by this horrific loss of life.

Sadiq Khan may have promised to hand over in the region of £15m to fund education, sport and cultural activities for the capital’s most disadvantaged young people, but this has been set out as a three-year initiative. Where is the solid and continual investment for the foreseeable future? Who will oversee the spending of these funds? Will it trickle down into the communities of those who need it the most? This cyclical nature of funding for both communities, and extra officer presence, when crime hits an all-time high is but a temporary solution.

Until we address this issue from the top down, there will be continue to be more knife crime; there will continue to be more gun crime, and more gang violence. Before we are so quick to blame individual factors, we must take a collective stance – it is a catalyst of issues from lack of adequate housing, job opportunities, poor health care and education that contribute to people resorting to crime, but the cause behind this current epidemic goes further than this. The government has been embarrassingly quiet when it comes to the real questions. Who is at the heart of the illicit and ever-growing drug economy? Why there is such an influx of guns finding their way into the UK and how are they being distributed around low-income, poverty-stricken areas? Why is there little to no investigation into the rising number of young black males going missing in Central London, when it is common knowledge that many are being used for ‘country lining’?

We forget we are only seeing the small picture. We are so shocked by 50 deaths we fail to realise there are 300+ people arriving into hospitals each month with stab wounds, and these are the ones who decide to seek emergency care. Knife and gun crime is blighting the lives of young people and disrupting communities, and until we begin to see solid promises and progress from the government, they stand to be as complicit as the perpetrators.

Written by Mireille Cassandra Harper

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