One quick look at the UK news gives you a good indication of where the knife crime statistics are going. In South London, the local social media is littered with knife muggings, gang-related knife fights, and stabbing games.
“Data gathered and analysed by the BBC found there had been 55 fatal stabbings so far this year (10 Oct 2020). Other findings over the last ten months include that 12 teenagers have been killed – all of them male – while six homicide victims were children aged ten and under”.
So, the question is:
- Why is knife crime on the increase?
- Why do so many people appear to be carrying knives both for use in crime and for their self-defence?
If we take away some of the social factors that lead to crime use, such as drugs and poverty and consider the knife, we realise that it’s a cheap, easily affordable, easy to carry cancelled option. Blades are also lethal even in a non-trained person’s hand.
The reality of knife defence
Please pause here and take just five minutes to google knife defence training…
What did you see? Dozens of YouTube videos showing empty-handed defence against knives, complete with splendid disarms. I bet for every video extolling the virtues of xxx martial art; there is a counter video posted on how that defence does not work.
Most martial artists disagree about most things but mainly about knife usage and defence. That’s not surprising because most of them have never been in a knife attack and probably know as little as the layman about what happens. The same goes for the local law enforcement, they have the training, tasers and stab-proof vests, and on the rare occasions they go head-to-head in a non-pre planned operation, they often come off second best.
Police officer stabbed in knife attack after being called to ‘disturbance’ in Hillingdon – MyLondon
Those of us who have been involved in knife crime as either the perpetrators or victims know that any knife attack is probably one sided. If the attacker has the intent to harm, he will likely succeed with a mixture of speed, surprise, and ferocity.
So, the answer to the first part of my question is that knives are easy to obtain, easy to conceal and use if you have that kind of intent. That makes them very useful in acts of violence connected with criminal acts.
The issue is that most teenagers living in London understand all of the above points. That realisation leaves them in a huge dilemma. If you know that your immediate social group has knives and uses them regularly during the violence, you must consider your safety. You may have even already seen or been a victim of knife crime and know that running away is often not a viable option.
It must be very tempting not to consider carrying a knife yourself, just to provide some sense of protection. I think this is why we see so many young people carrying knives for protection. If you carry a weapon, you will likely use it if you can—a life-changing moment for you and your assailants.
I have an excellent example of this; in the early eighties, I had a good friend from the local boxing club, we will call him George, a made-up name, but the story that follows is all true. George was a nice guy, and when he walked into his local pub, he was not carrying a knife and only intended to pop in for a post-work pint. While queuing at the bar, he noticed someone semi slumped over the bar, half seating on a bar stool, half hanging from the bar.
Somehow the two of them got into a conversation, friendly at first until the stranger, clearly drunk, got increasingly aggressive. Threats were made, George felt off-balance, and now the stranger was looming over him with his right arm pulled back to throw a punch. George stuck out with his right hand to the stranger’s face, and the stranger crumpled to the floor.
George became aware of a tingling in his right hand and noticed that it was deeply cut. He had inadvertently punched the stranger with a pint glass in his hand. After he was sentenced with causing Actual Body Harm (ABH) and jailed, I spoke with George, and he explained he did not even realise he had a glass in his hand.
I suspect that deep in George’s subconscious, he knew he was facing an immediate threat, and in some fight or flight mode, it grabbed the nearest weapon. Not great, and two lives ruined.
So we have two groups wondering our streets, one set on crime, using something that is a readily available equaliser, that does not require training to use, the other fearing for their life and carrying a knife for self-protection.
Somewhere in the middle is you.
In part two, I will discuss what I think is the best ways to avoid and stay safe from knife crime.