David Gomoh, Takkieddine Boudhane and Louis Johnson make up just three of the many people who lost their lives this year in London to knife or gun crime. 



This year, London has seen over 100 fatal homicides, marking the sixth consecutive year that this doleful milestone has been reached. So an immediate question which springs to the mind is what are the causes for such towering crime rates in London when the rest of the UK has seen homicides fall for the first time in five years?



Many youths are enclosed in a toxic living environment throughout their years as a child with five London boroughs having a child poverty rate above 40% in 2018. Coronavirus has caused the government to limit expenditure in all areas meaning that children are not receiving the support and advice they need to live a healthy life. Austerity has been a massive cause to such hard living environments as schools, neighbourhoods and even homes can become noxious environments for children. 



Throughout the UK, over 3,500 social service jobs and 600 youth centres have been closed since 2010. These unsupportive living environments often leave children vengeful, apprehensive and disaffected. It is certainly no coincidence that much knife crime occurs in areas and neighbourhoods suffering from a lack of social investment as there are many youths who despise the system for not distributing the services they need.



This leads on to the point that many children and young people don’t trust the authorities and services to protect them and act fairly. Researchers and academics have recently found a new link between carrying a knife and distrusting the police. Ian Brennan, a research psychologist of the University of Hull, has said that “it’s possible that young people who live in high-crime neighbourhoods…may not see the police as being able or willing to protect them from harm”. Therefore, in that situation, a young man or child may see carrying a knife justified.



James Densley, an associate professor of the University of Oxford, adds the idea that “if people feel society is unfair, they are less inclined to play by the rules and more likely to lash out violently”. As violence has risen in London, with 185.8 violent offences per 1000 offences in 2015/16 and 215.7 violent offences in 2018/19, the number of offences where police have identified the culprit has fallen, further eroding trust of the authorities. This can lead to young people disobeying law enforcement and using violence to resolve disputes and affairs. Consequently in London, many neighbourhoods with high crime rates are inclined to disrupt and not co-operate with the police due to previous abuse and discrimination. This is not good to hear as we all know that effective policing depends highly on co-operation with the public. 



Many young people and children are afraid of becoming victims to fatal stabbings, so they carry a knife in self defence. Peter Traynor, a senior research assistant in the Manchester Metropolitan University documented in his research that many youths that he spoke to “had been threatened” and “some had been attacked”. 



Traynor also notes that many authorities almost ignore young people who come for help. For example, a seventeen year old boy from London said that that the police “didn’t really care but if it was a normal person… they would have taken it a lot more serious”. As you can see the services and authorities may not be doing enough and the police may assume that crime is just an optional life choice. Some may not take into account that so many people are forced into the lifestyle and are desperate to escape it. 



Even worse, as crime rates are increasing, there is a shortage of at least 700 police investigators which has been described by London’s Metropolitan Police Service as a “crisis”. In terms of police officers, there has been a drop of 44,000 from 2010 to 2019 in England and Wales. Boris Johnson had proposed 20,000 more police officers to the streets of England and Wales by 2022, increasing numbers by 10% which is a good move but with a cost of £1.1 billion. Sadly we must realise that this aim may now be at the bottom of the government’s list since the coronavirus pandemic continues to demand more funding taking funding on other concerns more and more out of the equation of a now harsh budget. 



Another cause of increasing crime, nowadays often circulating around the news, is gangs. On the one hand, some people believe that this is not a principal cause as police have identified that there is only a small gang element in youth violence with under 5% of cases from 2011 to 2016. However, many gangs may be secretive. Also, with fewer cases properly solved, much information the police find may not be reliable or even valid. 



Drill music (mainly based in London) has received scrutiny from the news for aggravating and encouraging crime and violence. The Metropolitan Police Chief Cressida Dick called on media platforms such as YouTube to remove drill music as it is seen to “glamourise” violence. Some people have objected to the negative thought on drill music as many young people from poorer backgrounds are now becoming categorised as trouble makers and threats to society through the mere act of producing a music video. 



Rhyheim Barton was seventeen when he was killed by a rival gang in South London. He was a rapper making videos which received hundreds of thousands of views. A close family friend said that drill music was “a way for Rahim to express himself in a way that you couldn’t on a daily basis in society” and “he’d been rejected by pretty much every institution that he went to.” You can easily see how drill music and rap can be very controversial as it helped Rahim “to express himself,” yet, it brought an increased amount of attention to him as a target for other gangs. 



Recently some drill music videos have been abandoned as knives and guns were found during filming by the police. Many artists rap about violence, weapons and other bad things which can provoke violence. For example, opposition gangs might see the words as directed at them. This will aggravate that gang and they may enter outside territory and commit a violent act, risking lives.



Now both gangs face the possibility of heading down a slippery slope as it is almost a gang law that if you are attacked, you must attack back. We see in Young Offenders Institutions such as Feltham that if opposition gang members pass each other they will repeatedly spring out in violence. If this is the case in heavily guarded areas, I can't think how dangerous it is in all parts of London.



Finally, many people believe that social media has been a cause of increasing knife crime with people boasting about knives, violence and drugs. Many drill music videos are advertised online and I myself have received advertisements for this music on Instagram.


The coronavirus pandemic has had many devastating impacts, be it 71,567 UK deaths (as of 30/12/2020) or the thousands of people who have developed mental illness. Yet we must realise that this year has also stolen the focus from an epidemic of crime. One which must soon be effectively combatted.