Written by IARS Justice Intern, Faris Wong
At the surface, mainstream media seems to report these knife crimes as random acts of violence, in which the victims just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. In reality, there are various interlinked factors at play when it comes to the rise in knife crime. Knife crime is usually seen as the problem in itself, but I think it should be seen as a consequence of not addressing larger societal problems, such as antisocial behaviour.
Potentially, the easiest solution would be to increase the funding for policing, but even at the highest level of decision making in our society, there has been extensive debate on what style of policing works the best. One side argues that the use of stop and search by the police only perpetuates racial inequalities. Thus, increasing the number of searches may end up reducing the communities’ trust in police. However, research indicates that a decrease in the stop and search could potentially correlate with the rise in knife crime. Apart from policing as the only way to reduce the number of knife crime, is there anything else the communities can do for themselves?
Some theories suggest that the environment is a contributing factor to crime. Communities that appear disordered and divided may send signals to young people at risk of offending that these communities are powerless, and that there is little control for anti-social behavior. If we could empower communities, and show that crime is not tolerated, perhaps we would see crime rate fall again.
One form of community empowerment is to work towards a more cohesive and tightly knit community. Neighbours should be vigilant and keep a look out for one another instead of being closed off out of intimidation. A neighbourhood watch could provide the community with more sets of eyes and a stronger sense of security.
Increasing social interactions between community members in public spaces could decrease the use of those spaces for gang and drug related activities, and consequently, this would allow communities to ‘take back’ these spaces. One example would be to encourage the use of parks and similar facilities for sports and leisure. In addition, this would foster social cohesion in the neighbourhood, and potentially reduce crimes, which stem from antisocial behaviour.
Lastly, restorative justice as an approach would bring together those harmed by the crime with those responsible for the harm and to find a positive way forward collectively. Community members could act as mediators or form community support groups between offenders and victims. This approach would allow offenders to understand and personally see the harm they have caused.
Ideally, a community should aim to integrate everyone back into the community. If offenders can feel like they belong to a community then repeat offences may go down. Furthermore, restorative justice can deliver the highest victim satisfaction, and only by healing these broken fragments of the community can we stand united for a cause. While it is impossible to eradicate crime with just these suggestions alone, our communities should not feel that they are powerless and helpless against it.