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Applying Criminological theory to Knife Crime in the United Kingdom
0#Knife crime is a big issue in the UK: many people have lost their lives in knife stabbing with some survivor who have been left disabled or with big scars on their body. Last year 900 serious crimes were recorded in Merseyside. Looking at the statistics of knife crime in the United Kingdom compared to other crimes is stressful. In 2011 33,000 knife crimes were recorded; this number went up to 40.000 in 2018, year ending in March each.
The Home Office records in 2017 that knife and sharp instrument are used in 30% of Homicide; around 20% of perpetrators of knife crimes are aged between 10 and 17 and 70% are over 18years old. When they analyzed crime by Region for the year ending in March 2017, they found out that London took the lead with140 knife offenses over a population of 100,000 followed by the West Midlands 65, the Yorkshire and Humber 55and the Northwest in the fourth position with 50 knife crimes over 100.
000 population. Despite the high number of death in knife attack, the Home office source ‘on what kind of crimes are knives use for’ showed that 47% of them are Assault, 43% for robbery, 17% for treat to kill, 2% attempt to kill and another2% for rape and or sexual assault. ( I am going to look at the left and right realism thoughts about crime and delinquency , the anomie and strain theory on the causes of crime and the contribution of Capitalism to deviance.
#Criminologists have tried to look at the problem of knife crime and have expressed different views in the effort to assist in finding solutions.
Left realist such as John Lea, jock Young, and Roger Matthews agreed with Marx that Capitalism pushes young people into delinquency. However, they turned to call Marx an idealist because he just concentrated on talking about causes of crime without providing any real example solutions to the problem. For them describing crime and causes with no contribution to its elimination or reduction does not change the situation. They were looking for methods and practical ways to tackle it instead. The left realist criminologists stressed that relative deprivation where people become aware of the gap between them and the rich ones is one of the causes of delinquency. When individuals are locked into poverty and the social mobility to access the higher class in blocked, they tend to seek success in the opposite way. Therefore they become unhappy with no hope for progress in normal life and decide to orient their energy and ambition into crime.### #(They find easy to integrate into criminals groups because they might have the same frustrations. Then their victims are the poor deprived economically, socially and politically living in the inner city mostly in very poor housing area because the rich are protected enough; living in residential Area with great security that block criminals access. Criminals such knife criminals are originally part of the wider community but once they are marginalized their expectations are turned down, the only option left to them would create subcultures groups because their subscription to the dominant value of their community was blocked: this means there no possibility to be part of the normal society. The only option left to them would be to integrate a different type of community where they can be accepted. Those people mostly young would tend to find another way to succeed by joining offenders or gangs subcultures such as knife criminals. For example, some youth criminals go into substances misuses, some of them can combine this with knife crime as taking drugs would drive them made making easier for them to afford to stab their victims. Steve Hall argued that some people are grown in such social conditions where they are “denied love, rights and self-esteem”. They accumulate frustrations and anger that turn them into criminals. He recommended the Criminologists to look at the fact that “some people are labelled criminals, not others than focussing on the characteristics that distinguish criminals from non criminals”. Another problem is the reaction to crime: that is defined as “the social process characterizing media, public, political and criminal justice responses to crime and deviancy. The response often stereotype, stigmatize, label, criminalize, scapegoat and/or amplify the behaviour of certain individuals and groups”(Mc Laughlin; E.Muncie; J page 407). ” Moral panics about street crime are engineered to justify harsh and authoritarian laws; a criminal justice system is a tool used for the purpose of maintaining ‘the statiquo’ serves and protect only the interests of the powerful members of the society”. (Steve Hall, 2012 Page 109). On symbolic interaction side, some individuals who failed to integrate into the society try to find a group to belong to: they are not part of the normal society so better join a different community or subculture that being nowhere at all. They then find meanings outside in different groups of deviants. (Steve, 2012, page108).Marx, Engels, and Durkheim agreed that crime was nothing than a symptom of the decline of social solidarity and can go down when the social solidarity improves. ( Lilly; R. Cullen; F, T. Ball; R, A. 2015. page177). Cohen argued that delinquency should be specifically understood as Subcultures. He defined delinquency as ” Gangs of boys, doing things together, sitting on curbs, standing on the corner, going to movies, playing ball, smashing windows, and ‘going robbin’ “. He added that characteristic pattern of delinquent gang behaviour is collective reaction to problems or dissatisfaction experienced by boys forced to adjust to a culture dominated by middle class norms. The delinquent subculture defines and supplies a standing that is not available in the middle class community (Cohen. Glencoe. 1955). Charles Murray (1990) brought in a slightly new idea in the right realism; he claimed that there is a new group of young people who are not interested in working, claiming benefits, moving from one partner to another easily as they take no responsibility don’t contribute to the education of their children or simply abandon them to their mums. Those children brought up in such situation are suffering from lack of proper socialization; single mothers might not be able to teach them the norms values of the wider society, for example, boys would lack the male role model to follow and all that are problems that lead to children developing or joining existing offenders group. Grown with no respect no values of the norms, beliefs and rules of the community, they would themselves be more likely to follows their parents’ footsteps into belonging to the underclass. However, both right and Left realism agree on the fact that crimes including knife crime are a big problem that needs to be addressed. The underclass generation tend are more likely to be isolated, established in their behaviour and their victims are the poorer and powerless member for the community. Some criminologist such as Wilson and Herrnstein believe that crime emerges from society. So Wilson blamed socialization for not taking seriously the socialization of children into values and norms of the society from an early The right Realism has concentrated on ‘controlling crimes through situational and environmental prevention ‘that would make hard for the criminals to commit a crime. The two methods also make being caught easier so a kind of warning for the criminal to not take the risk of committing a crime. In situational crime prevention it about making the offender that e will be caught if for any attempt to wrongdoing such CCTV cameras or protections on windows so criminals would find harder to break in on being caught on the CCTV Camera. In the environmental case, it is regarded of protecting communities in whole such as more polices officers patrolling the area or the ‘zero tolerance’ policy that consist in penalizing all bad behaviour including minor incidents. The environmental one would be good in this case of knife crime as they can catch them hidden in corners or just walking on streets. Situational prevention would help as well but not at the same level as the environmental one because it does cover a wide area and the involvement of police officer is better and more effective than using devices. Police officers walk from one place to another but a CCTV camera stays and watch one place. Furthermore, the criminal sporting a CCTV camera would move to another area where there are no CCTV cameras thus this method can just facilitate the displacement of crime than tackling or preventing it. Cohen argued that surveillance and punishment might produce less effect on crime but more intrusive side effects on ordinary members of the society such as fear to go out, police officers patrolling streets ‘inconvenience and erosion of civil liberty as a result of continual checks and surveillance systems’ (Downes; D. Rock; P. Chinkin; C. Gearty; C. (2007)). Criminals carrying knives would not go to expose themselves to cameras, they move to other streets or areas where they would not be watched. Also they can just move their actions to another time. For example if the Police decide to tackle knife crime in a define period of time the delinquents can slowdown they criminal actions and wait until the Police has moved on and restart again. (Course notes)
3#Knife crime has become widespread with alarming statistics. Prince Charles and his son Henry stood up to work together with Stars such as Tom Hardy, campaigning for the stop of knife crimes saying ‘enough is enough’. Prince Charles in his talk explained better ways of supporting young people in their adolescence transition would be to orient their ambition and energy into constructive activities such as sports giving the example of boxing. From Prince Charles view young people at such age need to be managed, and given many opportunities and routes so they can choose what they want to be in their life. He stressed that they become a danger to society if there are left on their own, hanging on the street. It would be then the opportunity to learn all bad behaviour on joining groups of gangs, starts to find ways to get money or all they want by selling drugs, carry knives for multiples purposes such as stabbing people to steal they belong or just killing people for any other reasons. ( In the same direction Lea and young 1993 were concerned in the modern Capitalist society of the growing marginalisation of poor young people, giving examples of unemployed youth from deprived poor Areas, stealing cars in different British cities. This is a typical sign of poverty and lack of opportunity as they are locked away of the labour market. Therefore Capitalism is see as a “system of destructive self-reproduction that changes the functionality of crime not only for the socially excluded at the bottom of the society but also for capital itself, which is now busily destroying cities and communities, welfare and public goods, laying waste to a large areas of the globe, undermining the basis of social cohesion as part of the normal ‘legitimate’ process of economic development”. Therefore criminal activities are a reaction to such organised crime of the capitalist Elite, looking changes and innovation (Lea; J. 2002 page 143).
Figure 1: Prince Charles and his son Prince Henry in Knife crimes tackle Campaign at the Princes’ Trust Charity.
Figure 2: Above is the knife Angel standing by the Anglican Cathedral in Liverpool in the effort to stop knife crime in Liverpool
Figure3: Alfie Bradley the artist standing in front of his artwork with a “save a life, surrender your knife” message on his t-shirt.
In the effort to tackle knife crime in Liverpool some people such The Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen hospitals staff who have been treating knives crime victims in their Accident and Emergency department, worked very hard to bring the knife Angel in Liverpool. It arrived on the 29 November 2018 and would stand tall by the Liverpool Anglican Cathedral from that date to 31 January 2019 to give plenty of time to Liverpool people to see and more importantly understand the message it is transmitting. The knife Angel was made by iron workers in Oswestry Shropshire. Alfie Bradley the artist-designer of the knife Angel at the Iron Work Centre was in the first instance refused the permission to design the scripture as the government thought it would give a bad image to the country. He was finally allowed to do it. He used in total around 100,000knives gathered from 41 police forces from different places in the United Kingdom. It took him 2years to make the 27 ft knives Angel. This is an incredible artwork, it is more than words and can be moved from one city to another to teach communities how bad knife crime is for the victim the perpetrator and the whole society in general (
In conclusion knife crime is directory connected to delinquency and gang subculture.
– (Mc Laughlin; E. Muncie; J. The Sage Dictionary of Criminology; page 407; Sage publications)
– (Hall; S. 2012; Theorizing Crime & Deviance; A New Perspective; Sage Publications Ltd).
– (Lilly; J, R. Cullen; F, T. Ball; R, A. 2015. Criminological Theory, Context and Consequences page 177 Sage Publications Ltd).
– (Cohen; A, K. Glencoes. 1955. The Delinquent Boys: The Culture of the Gang; the Free Press}
-( Carrabine; E. Cox; P. Lee; M. Plummer; K. and South; N. 2009; Criminology; A Sociological introduction, Second edition; Routledge).
-( DOWNES; D. Rock; P. Chinkin; C. Gearty; C. 2007(page 214); Crime, Social Control and Human Rights. From moral panics to states of denial. Essay in honour of Stanley Cohen. Willan Publishing).
-( Lea; J. 2002. Crime & Modernity. SAGE Publication Ltd).
-( Hester; s. Eglin; P. 1992. A sociology of CRIME; Routledge publication).
R Merton(1938) referring to Marx and Durkheim ideas on causes of deviance, developed the ” social structure and Anomie theory” arguing that crime and deviance emerge as an individual adaptation to pressures born from the Capitalist social structure, He accused Capitalism of putting a big pressure on the society thus the strain and tensions resulting from it caused crime. That situation favoured the norms and values breakdown what he called ‘Anomie’. (Carrabine; E. Cox; P. Lee; M. Plummer; K. South; N. 2009 page 79).
To sum up knife crime is a huge problem that is very difficult to control: as Cohen (1985; 2001) control crime is more likely to harm individuals’ liberty than it can reduce crime. For example the level of control and security on street in the shops with the scanning of shoppers, the individuals stop and search, the government allowing some people’s post to be read and telephone tapped the airports checks, all the cameras in the country have just reduce crime but could not eliminate it completely. I addition to this crime control has instead helped the Criminals to develops strategies not to be caught such as hiding their weapons, act in groups and create connections in different cities. As stated by some criminologist Capitalism has contributed to rise in crime, it is seen as a system of destructive
Looking at the Home Office statistics, most knife crimes perpetrators are young people of working age. This might support the Left Realism blaming and accusations to the government of not providing young people social-economic opportunity to improve their lives. They are left frustrated hanging on streets. The only option left to them would be joining gang subculture, using knives or other weapon to kill and taking part in, robbing, riots or drugs taking and selling to survive. In addition to this the Criminal justice would concentrate on the crime committed by the poor young people. They ignore the white collar crime such as the Capitalism Elite crime who’s the law protects and cover up their crimes (Lea; J.2002). The symbolic interactionist view crime as a matter of definition rather than an inherent property of any particular act or a person. Crime is a relative rather than an absolute phenomenon.it is more constructed or interpreted reality than existing reality( Hester; S. Eglin; P . 1992. Page93-97)
. Right realism was criticized for ignoring white collar crimes and not looking at stratification and poverty as causes, also forgot the role of justice and law enforcement. They were accused of not being able to find the cause of crime giving an example of the high rate of reoffending dues to right realism weak approach to offenders. (
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