London enjoys the ability to boast and brag at the frenzied dining table of world powers for a variety of commendable reasons.  As of now it leads Europe as the continents wealthiest city and was recently deemed the ‘most powerful city in the world’ by the world economic forum.  Yet if murmurs of one particular topic arises, from even the quietest mouth in the room, England's capital retreats into a sheepish and silent version of its former self, cowering away so very quickly in order to dodge the judgemental stares of those around the table at which it is usually so buoyant.  Over the course of what was undoubtedly a tumultuous decade for the nation as a whole, the capital proceeded to be marred by a sinister shadow.  A shadow cast by what has no doubt been the most terrifying epidemic that has swept across the capitals skyline in recent times; knife crime.


The problem is undeniable.  Although the issue is not exclusively confined to the 32 boroughs that construct the capital, you would be hard pressed to find a region more harshly affected by the scar tissue it leaves behind.  London can call itself home to 16 of the 20 most dangerous areas in relation to serious knife crime in the entirety of England and Wales and shamefully recorded the highest rate of knife crime by police area, with 169 offences for every 10,000 citizens.  This dramatic rise in knife crime over recent years begs one very immediate question, what on earth is causing it?


In a discussion saturated by the views of contentious politicians the answer lies in a complex glass ladened labyrinth of policing failures, desperation, gang culture, and social media in which upon entering you are forced to remove your shoes.


With persistent institutionalised racism and discrimination that has seen minorities so horrifically discriminated against until they are unsure as to whether or not the authorities truly have their best interests at heart, it is no surprise that the divide between the general public and those in blue has grown so significantly over recent times.  As this already flimsy trust has witnessed itself crumble in the stained mirror of social discontent, unparalleled numbers of people are taking their personal protection into their own hands.  The heart-wrenching reality is that so many Londoners believe the presence of a knife on their body is simply a necessity in order to survive.  In his principles of Law Enforcement of 1829 Sir Robert Peel famously wrote “the police are the public and the public are the police”.  This founding principle of the Metropolitan Police force highlights the quintessential nature of public co-operation in order for policing to be adequately effective.  Yet failings of the police to achieve a successful level of co-operation with the public have plagued the forces ability to ensure the safety of those they are distancing themselves from.  These failings have only been further exacerbated by seemingly never ending police cuts that have seen the number of police officers drop by a total of 21,000 over the past 10 years.  


When aiming to highlight the failings of the police force it is vital to analyse the thing they have dedicated so many resources to in the hope of stopping; gang violence.  The ongoing PostCode wars have shone an intense light on the capitals ungovernable gang problem.  These wars ensue as gangs carve out their turf and brutally attack rival gang members if they happen to stumble onto it.  The bloodshed isn't confined to the fragile bubble of gang life however, often the bubble bursts and innocent people find themselves affected.  Ordinary people live in constant fear that they may unknowingly wander onto the wrong street.  So, they don't wander.  Instead they are forced to walk the longer route home with purpose, meticulously avoiding certain streets and alleys.


Children find themselves under the thumb of manipulative gang leaders exploiting them for personal gain.  Children as young as 15 are murdering each other in the name of ‘tit for tat’ gang killings.  And I use the word children with care, because that is precisely what they are - children.  Children who are chasing after one and other with machete’s and barbaric intentions that many would find hard to fathom at that age.  Society has a habit of dehumanising children affiliated with gangs as the impression is constructed that they are just as despicable as those who use them as soldiers in gang warfare.  Yet, I would argue that these children are themselves victims, having their childhood ripped away from them as they see their friends murdered.


Like most issues in our technology rooted society, knife crime is further aggravated by the constant use of social media.  Social media platforms provide gang members with a means of threatening and mocking rival gangs within seconds, from behind the relative comfort of being behind protective glass.  These online interactions have the capability of transpiring into very tangible violence in a matter of hours, particularly when there is such a toxic mentality hovering amongst gang culture.  Those who are disrespected and do not retaliate in any way are seen as cowards and mocked further, pushing them to respond with force.  The issue social media poses has been highlighted by the police force, with Metropolitan Police Chief Cressida Dick stating “There’s definitely something about the impact of social media in terms of people being able to go from slightly angry with each other to ‘fight’ very quickly,”. 


As the government proceeds to make inadequate attempts to lower the exponentially high figures that have been carved into the nations back, knife crime rates proceed to worsen.  With their suggestion to put knife crime stories on the side of chicken boxes being rightly ridiculed as brainless, racist and simply ignorant, the already ineffective efforts of the government to reduce knife crime were significantly blemished earlier this year.


While the scribes begin to write the next chapter of our history, more has to be done to ensure that the capital is not disfigured by the same terrifying epidemic.  More opportunities have to be created for disadvantaged children.  Safe spaces in which teenagers and at risk youths can enjoy themselves need to be constructed, but most importantly, something that has been left astray over the past decade needs to be instilled into the capital.  Hope.


George Robertson, Parmiters School.