Knife crime and headline grabbing gimmicks

If gimmicks like taking hoodies to A&E were all the government had to offer on knife crime (fear of which seems somewhat exaggerated), then home secretary Jacqui Smith would deserve a good kicking.

Showing kids the effects of knife crime and expecting them to reform shows a misunderstanding of our psychology. The adrenaline buzz we get from a little danger – or pretend danger like a roller coaster ride – is addictive. Emphasising the danger of carrying a concealed weapon, can only make otherwise boring teenage lives more exciting.

Fortunately, the proposals behind the headlines are much more sensible; intervening in 110,000 problem families. Parenting classes for those who have failed to create a home environment in which anti-social behaviour isn’t tolerated may amount to blaming the parents, but hey, guess who’s responsible for their kids.

Back in the 1980s, suspension and expulsion from my old school, in inner city London, were badges of honour for those who came from families with no respect or interest in education. Teachers daren’t detain pupils because it was not uncommon for an angry father to storm into school and rescue his offspring with a threat of violence. But if it had been followed through with sanctions that fell on parents, I suspect things would have been different. Dad would not have been keen on a compulsory parenting class… although I pity whoever ends up leading that lesson.

Meanwhile, the Tories have nothing of substance to offer. ‘Why not just throw them in jail?’ asks the Mail’s Stephen Pollard, echoing shadow home secretary Dominic Grieve. The answer is that while punishment should be dished out as appropriate, it has very little deterrent effect. Criminals simply don’t commit crime in anticipation of getting caught, either because they think they’ve taken precautions or their state of mind precludes them for thinking too far ahead; the prison population is disproportionately made up of drug addicts and the mentally ill and knife crime is most often committed in the heat of the moment. Not only does punishment fail to deter, it can only be imposed after the crime has been committed; prevention is better than cure.

To be fair, some Tories are thinking longer term. ConservativeHome’s Tim Montgomerie talks of values and at first sight can appear reasonable. But dig around and it becomes clear that this is little more than a repackaging of the social conservatism of old and is consequently ill equipped to plan for the future. Attempts to promote two parent heterosexual families fail to recognise that in many dysfunctional homes, men are aggressors with little of value to offer their children.

These Conservatives are still inspired by Christian faith and values, failing to understand that those of us who have never been superstitious only develop faith at times of personal crisis. The Conservative’s is a backward approach that refuses to accept that Britain is a multi-cultural society and so consequently has nothing to offer.

3 thoughts on “Knife crime and headline grabbing gimmicks

  1. “Showing kids the effects of knife crime and expecting them to reform shows a misunderstanding of our psychology.”

    Does it? Recent studies show that it (resotrative justice) has a good chance of dropping reoffending rates and the frequency of reoffending, so I’m not entirely sure what you’re basing this statement on?

    I understand what you’re saying about highlighting the danger may make it more desirable, but I’m not entirely sure I can see the correlation between seeing gaping knife wounds and wanting to be in a situation where you’re more likely to be the one on the bed. Maybe I’ve got strange psychology myself ;)

    As you say, the absolute worse thing to do is put them all in jail for simply carrying a knife, it ignores the whole issue that ASBOs have brought up.

  2. It was slack of me to make that assertion without some supporting evidence, so I’ve looked around and added a link to a blog on Psychology Today (The Addictive Nature of Adrenaline Sports). I don’t think it’s stretching the point to suggest that dangerous sports aren’t the only way to get that buzz… and it reminds me of another negative trend; kids are increasingly wrapped in cotton wool.

    Nobody wants to die in attempting a ski-BASE jump (follow the link); but they don’t believe it will happen to them or they’ve assessed the risks and decided they’re worth taking. Similarly, knife carriers really don’t expect to be victims; they don’t believe it will happen to them or they’ve assessed the risks and decided they’re worth taking

    Proximity to danger is exciting and carrying a knife can enhance that. Seeing others’ gapping wounds may make you feel like Evel Knievel sizing up his next jump.

    Draconian punishments may make knife carrying even more exciting.

  3. Fair enough, but if you took people around a morgue of people that have died in skiing accidents, do you really think that the thing going through their minds will be “man, now I really want to go ski-base jumping”? I personally can’t believe that would be the case.

    I agree that people may well get a rush from the power their violence can give them, but I don’t think this is necessarily relevant when talking about restoritive justice which specifically aims to tackle a more consious area of a persons thought process, rather than an automatic chemical reaction.

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