CEO of knife crime campaign The Ben Kinsella Trust, Patrick Green, has spoke about his views on knife crime and the recent rise of London’s murder rate.
Patrick Green, age 55, from London, claims that there are a number of reasons why London’s murder rate has increased due to knife crime.
When asked how knife crime has affected him personally, Patrick said ‘I think it affects everybody, but with the work that I do, which is predominantly in youth work all my professional life, I’ve seen the effects that it has on individuals, both as victims and offenders, their families and friends.’
He continued, ‘when you see the devastation it leaves behind, you really want to do everything that you can to try and stop it just happening one more time. So that’s really where my interest and passion for the subject matter comes from.’
With London’s murder rate taking over New York’s due to knife crime, we asked Patrick why have we seen an increase in knife crime? He said, ‘Statistically what we’ve seen is that we seem to be seeing an increase in relation to knife crime murders which are related to drugs,either the victim or the offender is a drug user. There seems to be an increase in that, so we can link some of the increase possibly to the drugs market.’
‘I think we’ve seen the impact of the loss of many of the youth workers and infrastructures that supported young people and helped diverse them away from crime and reassured them about their safety and protection.’
He continued, ‘In 2014 knife crime fell to about 2/3 of what it is today and it had fallen for three years in a row, and if we look back at that period we had significantly more resources both in terms of police numbers and in terms of youth workers. While you can’t say that that’s a causational factor, in other words you can’t say they’re a direct cause, I think in terms of context that has some meaning because if you don’t have the same amount of people doing the same work, you risk young people falling or drifting into offending or
incorrectly believing that they should be carrying a knife. It’s a whole heap of reasons I think and that’s why it’s so difficult to address quickly and one of the things that politicians are struggling with.’
Hackney and Croydon rank as some of the most dangerous areas within London. However, North London also has a reputation for gang culture, resulting in multiple deaths due to knife crime. We asked Patrick which areas he felt were affected most by knife crime. He said, ‘There are areas who are suffering more than others. Certainly recently north London has suffered, north including north east, have suffered terribly. But if you look at a map of where all of the knife crime incidents and particularly the murders happen, what strikes you is that they’re all over London. It isn’t just one part, or isn’t just one area.’
He continued, ‘Whether you’re in East, West, South or North London, knife crime is in your community and that’s a key issue as well, its not localized so that the police do something, or the youth workers can work in one area, its right across the capital.’
When asked what could be done to reduce the numbers of knife related deaths, Patrick said ‘first of all, I think we need to look at the drivers around knife crime. Essentially we need to stop young people carrying knives in the first place and we need to stop young people drifting into crime. If we do that well on the preventative side, everything else falls into place.’
He continued, ‘too often what we try to do is do it the other way around, by tackling crime from an enforcement side. I think what we need to do this time is look at preventative work, we need to look at helping young people make better choices, steer them away from criminality, address some of the social issues and social deprivation that drives people into crime. If we do that well and sustain that over a period of time we will start to reduce knife crime. ‘
Knife crime is affecting our emergency services. In an article released in March by the BBC, they stated that according to the NHS, the the number of knife-related hospital admissions were at their highest level in England for five years. When asked how much strain knife crime is causing our emergency services, Patrick said ‘Huge. I speak regularly to some of the trauma surgeons in King’s and in Bath and they will tell you they’re tired of cutting open young people, still in their school uniform. Duncan Bew, who is the head trauma surgeon at King’s tells me that he treats more people now for knife wounds then he does for appendicitis.’
Patrick said, ‘it is a huge strain on the public person, a huge strain on the NHS and a huge strain emotionally on the people who are working in those services because nobody wants to be trying to save the lives of young people, particularly through violent crime, that’s a really depressing feature of their work.’
‘We should use stop and search but we shouldn’t be relying on it to resolve knife crime because that isn’t what it’ll do.’
There is speculation that the recent increase in knife crime could a result of the decline in stop and search statistics.
When asked for his opinion, Patrick said ‘stop and search started to fall in 2011 and knife crime started to fall in 2011, so there’s no direct correlation between the number of stop and searches and knife crime, which some politicians will roll out but when you look at the data, it doesn’t suggest that there’s a direct link between the two. Stop and search remains a really important police tool, if you believe somebody is carrying a knife or acid, you have to have the power to stop them. But it on it’s own is not going to resolve knife crime.’
When asked what advice would he give to people about how they can stay out of harm’s way, Patrick said ‘Make positive choices. First of all, choose your friends wisely, that’s a really important thing. Don’t feel that in terms of peer pressure, that you need to follow what everybody else does.’
He continued, ‘I think for any young person who’s considering carrying a knife, I would really recommend that they go to a website called Live Knife Free, which is a testimony from young people who had carried knives and now no longer do so and tells their story and some of those stories are really profound and we should learn from other people’s experience. So I would highly recommend that anybody whose thinking that to spend a few minutes and look at some of those videos. I think they give a really good insight into real people and real experiences and why they’ve chosen now to live knife free.’