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Essay: Why the surge in Knife and Gun crimes in London and how it can be stopped

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  • Subject area(s): Criminology essays
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Methodological considerations

Rationale – Upon investigating why the surge in knife and gun crimes in the London, many key topics have come to light during this research, pointing to the reasons behind the knife and gun violence in the capital. Namely; lack of trust for authority, lack of youth programmes, police budgets cuts, peer group, organised crime, gang-related violence and fear. Fear has been cited to be a major motive behind the surge in knife and gun crimes in the capital. The issue of gang-related violence has also been cited as a key issue for the youth as about 8 out of 10 people killed on the streets of London belongs to a gang.

According to University College London, (2005), report titled; Rationalisation of current research on guns, gangs and other weapons; it explained that the stereotype image depicted by the media highlights one group of organised violent offenders (mostly Black Afro-Caribean descent) wielding knives, guns and persistently involved in inter-gang related conflicts as well as dealing in drugs, the Conversation, (2018).

Research design – the epistemological approach for this research is a known fact of knife and gun violence due to fear, gang-related activities and lack of youth activities, among minority groups in the capital. This would comprise of qualitative strategy as it seeks to highlight and illustrate the variety of epistemologies and the personal stance every researcher takes in answering their questions. Its qualitative research over the internet has been extremely exhilarating with prospects to investigate and comprehend human behaviours, experiences by taking regular research outlines and methods.

It further explores a unique scope and dimensions in which recognisable research methods can be used to allow researchers to write about who their partakers are, and what they know. Qualitative research endorses the significance of value and context, setting and the participant’s frames of reference. The continuance and study of the interaction of multiple views and voices acknowledge research that is conducted using qualitative research methods. It similarly permits for the formation of authenticity and information to be mapped out. Qualitative research knowledge cannot be understood without understanding the meaning that individuals attribute to that knowledge, their thought, feelings, beliefs and actions.

According to Morgan, J. (2018), in her article titled; Want to end London’s gun and knife crime epidemic? She highlighted that the effect of governments impact on cutting youth services has contributed immensely to this epidemic. Many youth services are virtually non-existent as many youths have nowhere to go other than their homes or the streets. The police budgets cuts coupled with the lack of youth services has increased the plight of the knife and gun violence considerably.

Research questions, aims, objectives

It is now paramount to dive into the aims of this research to find lasting solutions to the knife and gun crimes in the capital.

1. To establish the root causes of these disturbing crimes and what measures could be employed to halt this crime.

2. To save lives and encourage parents to walk their children to school without fear or panic and equally inspire the youth to be able to engage with their community without fear of been stabbed or gunned down.

3. To suggest to the government that there should be more community centres to help engage the youth to stop them falling into gang-related activities.

4. There should be enough communication between the police, the schools and the community in order to apprehend any gang-related activity or grooming in and around schools as soon as possible.

Creating a sample (and recruitment)

This desk-based research methodology is aimed at gathering information which has already been collected. These are published reports, articles, statistics and journals, as there are readily available data already collected for this research topic.

This research will collectively depend on quantitative and qualitative data already gathered in this field of research. However, this research project will depend heavily on qualitative data, even though qualitative and quantitative data are not distinct. Besides, quantitative orientation is assumed additional reverence due to its implying precision, but to prove the richness and more often complexity of understanding, we can derive that from qualitative procedures. It is also right to emphasise that, as qualitative research involves more clarity of purpose during its design stages, it takes considerably longer, Berg, L., (2001).
Nevertheless, qualitative research has left its mark abstractly and theoretically and as much as some qualitative research projects have been just as poorly conducted, one does not have to dismiss the entire qualitative school of thought, simply because some studies ineffectively applied the paradigm and methods. It is equally important that this investigation is not only conducted to accumulate data but to discover answers to questions through the submission of methodical measures, Berg, L., (2001).

According to Dabbs, (1982), she indicates that the notion of quality is essential to the nature of things, especially to distinguish between quantitative and qualitative methods. An amount of something is principally referred to as quantity, whiles quality refers to what, how, when and where of something rather than quantity. Qualitative research, therefore, discusses connotations, impressions, definitions, characteristics, metaphors, symbols and descriptions of things. It must be emphasised that qualitative research purposefully stipulate viewpoints that can prompt recall of common or omitted sights, sounds and emotions, which can not be meaningfully expressed by numbers, Berg, L., (2001).

Whiles others extend their understanding of qualitative research to include interviewing, most authors also associate qualitative research with a single technique of participant observations as well. Though, well sought-after qualitative research also comprises such methods as observation of experimental natural settings, photographic techniques, including videotaping, historical analysis, document and contextual analysis, ethnographic research and several unobtrusive techniques, Berg, L., (2001).

There are limitations that could also be derived from qualitative research despite the greater depth of understanding that can be originated from qualitative procedures. It, however, takes much longer, requires greater clarity of goals during design stages, and cannot be analysed by computer programs. Obscurity, which is intrinsic in human language, can be acknowledged in the analysis during research. Qualitative research can be difficult to extend to the same wider populace with the degree of certainty that quantitative analysis can, Berg, L., (2001).

Data collection/generation

There have been numerous books, articles and reports written about the surge and impact of knife and gun crimes in the capital. In 2018 alone, there were 123 homicides including 70 fatal stabbings and 14 shootings. Politicians, journalist and experts blamed a wide range of factors for this upswing in violence including; gangs, drug turf wars, austerity, police cuts, drill music and dwindling youth services. This has made it readily possible for literature to be accessed online due to varying opinions of the issue. The research data collection is a desk-based reviewing various authors views and solutions suggested in preventing or mitigating this epidemic in the capital.

According to Morrise, K. (2010) in his article; UK doctors begin reporting gun and knife crime, he emphasised the impact of the General Medical Council (GMC) involvement in combating this epidemic. He explained the two-stage process, which starts with an initial report of injury has occurred and where the victim would be asked whether they wish to speak to the police and their consent to disclose further information. This is new guidance for doctors to report or disclose any risk considered justifiable that further serious harm exists for the police to help in the prevention, detention or prosecution of a serious crime.
Below are some of the causes of the surge in knife and gun crimes in the capital;

Lack of trust for authority

Studies indicate that violence goes up as soon as the public’s confidence in the government and its officials goes down. This further indicates that people feel the community is unjust and hence are less minded to play by-law but are likely to lash out violently. According to the conversation UK; there are so many reasons why the British society will lose trust in their political leaders; for instance, the way Brexit is been handled, the Windrush Scandal, the Grenfell tower, the failure of justice at Hillsborough, amongst others, the Conversation, (2018).

Moreover, due to the rise of “fake news” there has been a growing wariness of establishments designed to hold elected offices to account. The media, especially social media platforms are plagued by extremism, trolling and propaganda which spread moral outrage, whether it’s based on real events or not. It further echoed that, minority ethnic groups are unreasonably the casualties and offenders of knife and gun crimes in the capital, the unconcerned bigotry that they experience each day on social media could have an extreme impact on them as a result of its unfairness on society, MENAFN, (2018).

The annual trust barometer survey by PR Firm Edelman found that British people hold “little hope for the immediate future”. It further stated that traditional anchors and publishers have leapt up notably as many are moving from mainstream news, with overall total levels of trust in political leaders, media and business are all flatlined. These give way for social media amidst the political climate, mixed with anxieties of severity, small disagreements and displeasures that people will normally let go, infuriates them. This then creates a fit of self-justifying anger and predatory outbreak to occur as it’s scope for two principle forms of violent conduct, MENAFN, (2018).

A trust deficit, many British people trust in authority has been eroded. In 2017, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary described the shortage of public investigators, including detectives as a “national crisis”. The London Metropolitan police service is short of 700 detectives, the Guardian, (2018).

In October 2018, MP’s warned that police could become “irrelevant” with so few officers on the beat. Many high crime neighbourhoods are already disposed to scepticism about the police, due to their numerous experiences of ill-treatment and institutional racism. When institutions are not strong and the police fail to apply the laws, i.e. solving a crime, individuals will avoid the police and the security agencies and resort to violence in resolving disputes, the Conversation, (2018).

Gang-related crimes and grooming

There have been many questions and concerns relating to the name “gang” as the term seems to include all the problems presented by the youth who convene jointly and seem frightening in some manner. The media, however, does not make it any better by the stereotypic image portrayed as an organised group of violent offenders (especially black Afro-Caribbean descent), dealing in drugs, brandishing knives and constantly been involved in bloody inter-gang conflicts. These are the perceptions created by the media in the minds of many. According to Jill Dando Institute of Crime Science, (2005), they emphasised that; gangs are not a singular phenomenon across literature, as distinctions have been made between street gangs and crime firms, with street gangs been loosely organised. There are also the informal groups of delinquents and crime firms who organised criminal networks. One project organised by the Jill Dando Institute of Crime Science went a step further and made a distinction between delinquent peer groups and “gangs”. This gave three (3) levels of a delinquent collective; the peer group, the gang and the organised crime group.

The peer group – are the collectively small, organised and transient groups composed of peers who share the same space and common history. Their involvement in crime will predominantly be a non-serious in nature.

Gang – these are predominantly street-based groups of young people, who see themselves as a recognizable group for whose crime and the offence is integral to the group’s identity.

Organised crime group – these are groups of individuals whose involvement in crime is for personal gains, and for most of them, it’s their occupation.

As these contrasts may seem to us clear and reasonable, the measure for recognising such instances at each operation is less clear. However, to make matters worse, types of crime, gangs and gang activities vary over time and place. This makes firm definitions extremely difficult, particularly for operational purposes.

The information gathered relating to gang’s participation in crime and violence could be misleading as sometimes comprehension accounts create a cycle of false information causing gangs to be initiated by the police that may not have existed. Additionally, the liberal use of the word “gang”, may lead to events which may not be gang-related at all, being re-addressed as gangland conflicts. It is therefore concerned that with such uncertainty surrounding “gangs” and continuing problems of definition, a solution might be to cast aside the use of the term and focus on the problems instead, i.e. behaviour, inventive offending of the varying type of crimes and the seriousness amongst associated networks of individuals, Jill Dando Institute of Science, (2005).

Lack of youth programmes

The knife and gun crimes in the capital have provoked a growing concern about youth involvement in this violence and urban safety. This plain message of increasing youth violence in the capital obscures a more complex set of issues and clarification, which has largely been overlooked by both the public and political debate. The knife ‘epidemic’ as referred to by many i.e. conflicts, fear and insecurity in the capital had some underlying root causes which had not been addressed, BBC, (2018).
Youth programmes have seen big cuts in their budgets over the past few years, affecting the significant role youth programmes play in stopping youth offenders. Many academic pieces of literature suggest that organised activities reduce behavioural problems and other chances of criminal activity. According to an article by BBC, (2018), titled; Have youth service cuts led to more crime? It emphasised that Prof J, Mahoney, a child psychologist based in the US, investigated the results of 695 youths and found that, those who participated in an organised extracurricular activity after school were less likely to commit a crime. The study further revealed that the prospect of committing a crime in later life comes down to the quality of youth programmes and the opportunity of being able to mix with better-behaved peers, guided by structured activities and respected youth leaders, BBC, (2018).

According to Department for Education (DfE) data, youth programmes such as youth clubs, after-school clubs and teenage pregnancy advice had their budget reduced to £416m across councils in England, compared with £489m in the previous year. In 2014/15, councils in England spent a total of £622m in that year. This means councils are now spending £206m less than they did in the previous years, BBC, (2018).

The DfE data further revealed that in the year 2016/17 around 75,000 children and young people between the ages of 10-17 were arrested, indicating that the number of children and young people arrested last year decreased by 14%, with a similar occurrence in reference to youth offenders receiving police cautions or custodial sentences. It is, however, a changed narrative when it involves knife crime. In 2016/17, there was an upsurge of 11% from the last five years, involving young offenders committing 4,000 offences all relating to knives or offensive weapons. The overall proportion on knife and gun crimes indicate that most offences are been perpetuated by adults, though, every two in five offenders were under the age of 18, representing the highest in 7 years, BBC, (2018).

Police budget cuts

Government budgets cut to the Metropolitan police has been cited by many as part of the reason for the upsurge in knife and gun crimes in the capital. The Metropolitan police in the year 2017 alone, recorded a 21.2% surge in Knife crime, but a 4.6% decrease in gun crime. Many individuals are of the view that the increase in knife and gun crimes are because of the impact of police numbers cuts and budget cuts. An article published by the Guardian, (2018) titled; Policing at ‘tipping point’ over budget cuts, warns police Chief; cited that, policing has been left at a tipping point by government cuts and is on the verge of failing the public and struggling to notice criminal activities. The public has equally become worried about the police less visibility in especially high crime areas, less responsive and less proactive. It further highlighted that core aspect of policing i.e. answering emergency calls, investigating criminal activities, neighbourhood policing and bringing offenders to justice are being pushed beyond sustainability and are in danger of becoming inefficient to the impairment of credibility in the police force, the Guardian, (2018).

An article published in the Guardian, (2018), titled; Police cuts likely contributed to the increase in violent crime, further hinted that a leaked Home Office document revealed that, government cuts to the police “may have encouraged” violent offenders and have contributed to the surge in the rise of violent crime. The Home Office Secretary, Amber Rudd, who claimed that cuts to the Met police force were not to be criticised for the obdurate surge in violent crimes, claims were called into question by the document.

The Met Chief, Cressida Dick, has stressed emphatically that budget cuts have contributed to the rise in violent crime in the capital and has called for 500 extra police officers as police numbers fall below 30,000 by the end of 2019. She further reiterated that the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan’s efforts in raising local taxation to soften the impact of policing in London has come at the right time. As this money would be invested in recruiting new police officers to help replace those leaving and retiring and combat the knife and gun violence in the capital, Guardian, (2018).


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