U.K. Knife Crime at Its Highest in 3 Decades
December 29, 2008 12:50 PM
By LAMA HASAN, Correspondent, ABC News London
We’ve always known that knife crime in the U.K. has been on the rise and a serious problem for the authorities who’ve struggled to contain it. It has taken over terrorism as the Metropolitan Police’s No. 1 priority.
But we didn’t know the full extent of knife crime until today. The U.K.'s opposition party, which is the Conservative Party, released some sobering facts and figures that say knife-related killings have soared to a record high, the highest in three decades.
According to police figures obtained under the freedom of information laws by the Conservative Party there have been 277 homicides from knives or sharp instruments -- that’s five people being killed a week, in the past year.
Among the victims was 18-year-old actor Rob Knox. He acted alongside Daniel Radcliffe in ‘’Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.’’ Knox was killed trying to defend his younger brother after a fight broke out and then continued outside a bar. Knox died from stab wounds.
The Conservatives argue that under the current Labor government leadership, the U.K. has failed to tackle the underlying causes of crime, such as drugs, family breakdown and gang culture.
James Brokenshire, a Conservative spokesman, said, “Knife crime is a scourge which claims too many lives and ruins countless others. Yet under Labor it has soared. The government’s only response is short-term, ad hoc police operations, the results of which they spin and manipulate anyway to try to get a good story.”
The woman in charge of making Britain a safer place is Home Affairs Secretary Jacqui Smith, who recently admitted she didn’t feel safe walking in her neighborhood alone at night. Earlier this month, she had to apologize for misquoting figures that suggested the number of stabbings and teenagers carrying weapons were on the decrease. Smith came under criticism from the head of the government watchdog, the U.K. Statistics Authority, saying the data released was "premature, irregular and selective."
What’s the government doing about it? It has started a 6.5 million dollar program that is designed to target 10 areas deemed problematic in the U.K. This includes more stop-and-search operations and airport-style security at some subway stations.
Coinciding with these new figures today, the government is beginning to talk tough and act tough. New legislation was announced that says people caught carrying knives are to face tougher punishments, such as doing at least 18 hours of community work a week, and will be subject to curfews. A little more humiliating perhaps is that criminals will be expected to wear high-visibility orange jackets bearing the words “community payback” when they are doing their work. These sanctions will come into play next week.
But the Conservatives say it’s still not enough. They are putting the onus on the Labor government and want more to be done to slash knife crimes in the country.