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Sunday, September 09, 2012

Examining knife crime facts in the UK for solutions - part 2

MOST of this millennium, Government data from the Home Office couldn't tell anyone much about knife crime. Thank goodness this is changing... hopefully.

But as recently as 2008, it was the then Prime Minister Gordon Brown who tried to respond to a rising sense of alarm by holding a knife crime summit while not in full possession of the facts, and David Cameron, Tory opposition party leader as he then was, who described knife crime as an epidemic and Britain as a broken society.

Both politicians were inaccurate to a great extent - or, assuming some public manipulation, do we say 'economic with the truth' - to try to make some political capital, as well as make a bit of real progress maybe, if lucky, from a time of public alarm.

Political leopards don't change their spots, it seems, and here was a classic case. At the time, Gordon Brown's team decided to use NHS statistics - which counted patients discharged from hospital with stab wounds - and claim there had been a 27% drop in numbers of stab victims. Unfortunately, hospitals hadn't finished counting the stab victims and they told the PM so. 

British politics and politicians - and civil servants + the media too - never cease to amaze me at these times with demonstrative unprofessionalism and seeming lack of realism. In this instance they went ahead and published these figures, effectively perpetuating a false myth (and dare I say using infamous spin) by announcing misleading data... and thus causing immense consternation to many, once again, about the way our governing masters operate. These figures did in fact prove to be inaccurate - yet 'don't let the truth get in the way of a good story', eh?

If you can't trust those paid and working full-time to be looking out for the British population's interests, who can you trust? And that's one of the reasons why victims of crime, knife crime or any other, find it so hard to get peace after the death of loved ones... because those supposed to represent them right up to the highest level have too often been shown up to not be in charge of their brief, not effectively helping or supporting them, innocent victims of loved ones violent deaths. Communications between victims and the powers-that-be at these times can often be relatively poor, perhaps mainly due to the immense grief, pain and mourning experienced.

Maybe I'm a little hard on these well-paid bureaucrats? You tell me. 

To be fair on those who have worked for knife crime reductions, knifings apparently dropped about 8% in 2008, probably with police attention and the huge focus and attention at the time given by knife and violent crime campaigners including this blog to make a difference.

From the above, the political process has been shown to be a real detriment to best solving problems in this country. Party politicians, keen to show they are better at law and order than the others, squabble over semantics in the public arena rather than focus time and public resources on solutions.

How much more helpful it would be to have a target to reduce knife and violent crime and all those working on that project aligned and communicating progress on a monthly or quarterly basis to the nation at large. There you would be better able to see the start of a focal point for the bereaved and injured to feel involved, and to affect positive change too possibly.

But no, that's not evident; political and media noise distorts the situation, no-one steps up to be accountable in case of failure, and everyone wonders what exactly is the true picture, who is working on the solution, how solutions will be enacted etc.

Knife crime statistics are still 'challenging' to understand. It is reprehensible of politicians and government that, with blades and other stabbing implements responsible for the largest share of killings, official crime statistics have not ever included a category for knives, right up to the end of the last millennium... How on earth do you overlook this during all that time? Because no-one has truly been accountable - and that must be a failure of government, police and civil servant management, and taxes must have been wasted without that accountability. This must be a fact, else matters would be better run and communicated.

One would feel more confident in our ruling classes if they were in command of the crime brief - but here is yet another example of these people demonstrating, as they frequently do, a high level of amateurish-ness and lack of accountability with regard to understanding and solving crime affecting the nation. It is clear that government departments, political parties and the police are not well informed and connected on issues far too often. Perhaps it keeps them in a job to run things this way? Perish the thought.

I mentioned in part 1 of this mini-essay that in the book 'Britain etc', the journalist Mark Easton (Home Editor at the BBC) reports... "As a rough average, two people are murdered every day in Britain. The most common weapon used is a blade or other sharp instrument. The most likely stab victim is a young man." In fact, a third of all murders are caused by some kind of blade or other stabbing implement.

Ffs - however you might try to rationalise it, that is terrible (although still one of the lowest killing rates recorded in the UK since medieval records were kept apparently - and lower than many other countries in the world today too).

As indicated in Easton's research, after Labour's PM Gordon Brown set up the Tackling Knives Action Programme (TKAP) in 2008, it was quietly buried less than a year following its formation and the authorities went back, once again, to measuring only the broad category of 'violent crime'.

But then with so many other problems in the country and world, perhaps it's not surprising that time and attention on one ill is not apparently as available (as, say, for war, foreign aid or the Olympics). And can you really knock politicians when they demonstrate natural human concern to solve such a problem?

Well, it's not about knocking them - it's about the fact they are paid full-time to solve this and other important problems. What's their plan? What is being measured regularly to check progress - and how is that effectively communicated so people know it's being done? Where is the accountability?

What do we pay our politicians and civil servants to do? Or rather, where are our taxes going if not to provide clear solutions, providing us with regular evidence that progress is being made? Much of the buck around this must stop with them.

And that completes part 2 of this blog's series looking more closely at how to solve knife crime in this country - and possibly the world. Next time, I'll look at the poverty factor causes knife crime problems and how young people are demonised in Britain leading to misbehaviour and illegal carrying and use of knives.

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