By Boqian Wang
Violent Crimes become particularly worrying in recent years, according to Davies (2023), by 2022, violences involving knife or other sharp objects increased by 10% in a decade in the UK. Worryingly, the young population is seen as a major participant and victim of knife crime. According to the data from BBC (2019), from 2017-2018, a quarter of the victims were males aged 18-24. Meanwhile, the suspects in all 252 homicides in the year to March 2018 were most likely to be aged between 16-24 years. Therefore, knife crimes involving young people is a significant problem which leads to considerable legal, security, economical as well as social psychological costs. Knife or other sharp instruments are relatively accessible weapons, yet can cause serious harm and even death to victims, at low costs. This explains why knife crimes have been stressed much importance in terms of mass media and institutions.
This article will briefly analyse the reasons for youth knife crimes, and provide certain possible methods to reduce such crimes.
1. Young people may lack the general knowledge regarding the consequences of knife crime.
From the medical perspective, due to a lack of medical knowledge and life experience, young people may lack understanding of the consequences of knife crime, which can cause more serious harm than they think. Tribe (2018: 2) suggests that, when committing a crime, a young person may avoid stabbing a knife into the victim’s heart to prevent death. However, in reality, other vital organs or blood vessels can lead to death if stabbed deeply. In addition, the lack of legal and moral conceptions may also contribute to reckless crime by young people. The cognitive and volitional abilities of young people are relatively low, and they are susceptible to the suggestion and temptation of external factors, making them prone to excessive behaviour and delinquency. Young people are in the formative stage of their concepts of life, values and worldview, and their understanding of and adaptation to social norms such as law and morality are not yet consolidated.
2. Childhood experiences and mental health.
Young people are in the transitional phase between childhood and adulthood, so although their physical development is largely complete in terms of physical and intellectual ability, they are still influenced by their childhood experiences. Childhood trauma and unstable families increase the risk of violence, causing young people to be at risk of mental health problems, as well as show aggression (Haylock et al. 2020: 11). Since there may be a positive correlation between trauma and mental health, those who have experienced childhood trauma are more likely to have a poor psychological condition (Haylock et al. 2020: 11). Stable families as well as positive family education can provide a certain degree of guidance and support to children as well as young people. This is vital for them as they need protection and a sense of belonging from their families. If they do not obtain these from the family, then they may, on the one hand, become anxious and repressed towards violent crime, and on the other hand, they may seek to join the gangs, which may also lead them to crime as a sense of belonging is considered essential for one’s social identity. Also, in gangs, where members are of a similar age, peers have a strong influence on young people and they tend to imitate the behaviour of their peers. Once effective guidance is lacking, it is difficult for young people to gain basic understanding of morality or social order, not to mention to compliant with them.
The youth group has relatively limited access to resources due to age, education and economic conditions. When they are unable to use socially acceptable means to achieve their goals, some of them may apply illegal means to cope with tension and stress, namely the conflicts between them and their peers or other social groups. Just as what Haylock et al. (2020: 10) argue, knife crimes are sometimes considered as the solution of some tensions as well as conflicts. Namely, bullying is closely related to knife crime in many cases. The victim of bullying may achieve revenge by committing a knife crime, or may become the victim of a knife crime (Haylock et al. 2020: 10). Likewise, burdensome pressure and interpersonal conflicts can be a cause of knife crime among young people. Lacking the means to cope with these difficulties, they are more likely to resort to illegal means to resolve conflicts than adults, due to their unformed moral values and social means.
1. Family education.
Support and protection from the family is essential for young people. Positive support and guidance not only contribute to the mental health of young people, but also provide them with a sense of belonging, thus reducing the possibility of gaining a sense of belonging from other sources, such as gangs. At the same time, some legal education from the family can help reduce the potential for knife crime. For example, children are taught to have a law-abiding mindset and to use the law to regulate their behaviour and protect themselves.
2. School education.
Schools can set up some medical and legal related practical courses. Explain to students the consequences of knife crime, e.g. the harm caused to the victim, the legal regulations, etc. Such courses can be conducted outside the classroom or guests can be invited to give lectures, giving students the opportunity to learn more about real-life cases. Most importantly, young people can build up their moral and legal views through this process.
3. Social intervention.
According to Davies (2023), cases of knife crime are becoming alarmingly common, especially among young people from low-income groups. This indicates an essential social context: inequality, which the government is obliged to cope with. Young people bear the outcome of this socio-economic tension, some of whom are unable to continue their school life and therefore lack education, while others have no financial resources and therefore choose to commit crime. Cuts in education funding and general economic turmoil have deprived some young people of an education or a means of earning a living, which has undoubtedly increased the risk of them committing crime. The government should devote more attention to this group of young people, for example through psychological counselling, job training, recreational activities or financial assistance. Those groups of young people with special educational needs should not be neglected and should be assisted to better integrate into school or society.
Nowadays, there is a growing concern in society about knife crime involving young people. In general, Young people’s knife crime is a complex social problem. Young people are, on the one hand, a vulnerable group and, on the other hand, a group that requires education and guidance, which rely on the involvement and cooperation of a number of social sectors for instance family, school and social institutions. More social awareness needs to be raised and more attention needs to be given so that the risk of crime can be effectively reduced while protecting the welfare and safety of the young population.
BBC News (2019) ‘Knife crime: Fatal stabbings at highest level since records began in 1946’ (7 Feb 2019), BBC News [online]. Available at: Uk-47156957 (Accessed 8 Feb 2023).
Davies, Ben (2023) ‘EXCLUSIVE: Adam Azim makes emotional plea against rising knife crime as campaign plan set’ (1 Feb 2023), Mirror [online]. Avaiable at: https://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/boxing/adam-azim-knife-crime-boxing-29106685 (Accessed 8 Feb 2023).
Haylock, Sara ; Boshari, Talia ; Alexander, Emma C. ; Kumar, Ameeta ; Manikam, Logan ; Pinder, Richard (2020) ‘Risk factors associated with knife-crime in United Kingdom among young people aged 10-24 years: a systematic review’, BMC public health, 20/1: 1451–1451.
Tribe, H C; Harris, A; Kneebone, R (2018) ‘Life on a knife edge: using simulation to engage young people in issues surrounding knife crime’, Advances in simulation (London), 3/1: 20–20.