[I realise this is a bit Grauniad BTL, but bear with me]
I just don’t buy the argument that more police and more after school clubs would somehow magically stop people stabbing each other. Both might, potentially, reduce the numbers a bit but this seems to me to be a cultural issue more than anything, where knife possession and use is normalised.
Clearly, a police presence on the streets might dissuade a person from attacking someone (or committing any other criminal offence) at that exact spot at that exact moment in time, but the police can’t be everywhere, no matter how much money you throw at recruitment etc.
Equally, after school clubs and giving potentially disenfranchised youths something to do outside of school other than roam around getting into trouble is clearly a good thing. But providing such outlets for aggression or whatever (or simply offering ways to engage their attention) doesn’t ensure they will go.
Obviously both things (increased police numbers and increased investment in after school clubs) can’t hurt. Indeed, the carrot (‘hey, here’s a nice football pitch and proper coaching for you guys to use instead of fighting each other’) and the stick (‘Look, there are loads of police around, properly empowered to stop and search - I’d better not carry a knife as if I’m caught, the Courts are now dishing out genuinely punitive sentences rather than community service orders’) certainly have a place in addressing the issue. Perhaps Sadiq can rethink his pledge to massively reduce Stop and Search?
But I just find it a struggle to believe that they would meaningfully address the problem. It’s far more deep-rooted than just being a bit a bored or feeling like you can act with impunity due to a reduced police presence.
It takes a pretty bizarre set of mental leaps to go from “I’m quite annoyed with this bloke, he disrespected me” to “Right, I’m going to pull out a knife and stab him with it, with intent to kill, in broad daylight, in a public place.”
My point is more that it’s very easy to point the finger at austerity, but that somewhat lets communities (and more specifically families) off the hook. Why do children (as these boys reportedly were) think it’s acceptable to both carry and use knives? I have a friend who’s a paramedic and she has some extraordinary stories about the sort of knife-related wounds she sees. She mentioned, for example, that it’s seen as a badge of honour to have scars caused by knife wounds to your arms or chest, so as a result, gangs have started approaching victims from behind and stabbing them in the rectum - the thinking being, there’s no kudos to be gained by carrying around a colostomy bag for the rest of your life. That is literally mind-boggling. No amount of investment from the Exchequer is going to curb that sort of warped thinking.
There are clearly no easy solutions, but I think it’s fair to say it will take a combination of approaches to address the issue: a keener deterrent (more police, properly empowered to stop and search; much longer sentences for the possession and use of knives), more incentives to stay on the straight and narrow (the provision of more community projects and after school activities etc) and better education / guidance (both from schools, but more importantly, families and communities.