123 days: 50 people have been killed. No one should be waking up to the news that yet another person has died, but in the past 6 years youth violence and youth crime has increased rapidly, with a rise in stabbings being the main cause of concern. Over the past few days, Twitter has been full of possible solutions that we must pursue in order to help reduce knife crime but it seems that everyone has very different views.
Some have blamed the influence of violent music like 'drill', while others have recognized that this issue is far deeper than just a genre of music. In reality, there are many factors that need to be considered: hyper-masculinity, poverty, cuts to youth services and one factor in particular many people seem to ignore is the fact that once offenders leave prison, they often receive no support, rehabilitation and in most cases have no skill set to get them a job which just leads them to re-offend.
There is a serious divide in London between younger and older generations; generations which choose not to listen to one another. Rather than seeking to recognise the systematic problems within communities and communicating with one another, we've turned against each other in an argument of who is right and who is wrong, stereotypically blaming ethnic minorities or choosing to blame cuts to public services. The problem is much bigger than that.
Recently, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan came under fire for his lack of progress on this ongoing issue. Telegraph columnist Shaun Bailey stated that "Sadiq Khan frequently blames cuts in police budgets with no direct correlation to the reality of the situation". Constantly we see tweets from Mr. Khan referring to the cuts that have been made to the police and youth centres. There's no doubt that youth centers contribute to reducing crime but even in these youth centers the children who go there day in and day out have other issues: mental health, loneliness and financial situations which lead them astray.
@chidzhazenberyy perfectly pointed out in his latest tweet that "A lot of young people on road have never been told they have PTSD no one ever told them that living in fear is not normal that anxiety is not normal, insomnia is not normal, so many have no idea they need therapy". This point refers to a lack of education and support. Children have not been properly educated or encouraged to take their mental health seriously enough to seek help and not educated on how to approach their often difficult circumstances.
Recently I spoke to a young girl who was born and raised in Hackney. She was encouraged by friends to get a mental health checkup for depression so she rang a mental health help line. She stated that the man on the other end of the line was "bitter" and she felt belittled because he didn’t think someone her age would have anything to be 'sad' over, "He just made me so angry, what is his role isn't he supposed to help me".
This is an example of how services are not only failing young people, but also how young people are not receiving the emotional support they need in order to get through some of the ordeals they go through day in, day out, which often results in them seeking comfort with those that feel their anger like gangs. That is not to say that every child that suffers emotionally or mentally resorts to crime, but ensuring that our children are sufficiently educated and supported when they are going through tough times is important.
When society fails you and home life doesn’t contribute to your happiness you seek comfort and family elsewhere. Properly funding youth clubs and the police, yes all this will help reduce crime, but the fact of the matter is that these children will still feel the same anger and pain when the youth clubs are shut and the police are not around. What long term effect will this have on these individuals besides giving them a little something to do in the holidays?
No child is born a criminal but there are factors which act as catalysts. Some of these offenders were once victims themselves. Some of us have been fortunate enough to have a loving family who support us emotionally and mentally. Although we may have suffered financially or academically, we still have that support system around us to ensure we need do not feel deprived enough to seek it elsewhere. Those children without that foundation or knowledge on how to deal with trauma tend to seek it in the wrong places and that is how as a society we have failed.
This point also points back to the education system. Since speaking to a number of teenagers many of them expressed that when they experience trauma or problems in their lives they're either told to go home to calm down or given a 5 minute pep talk. No real concern or effort is made to ensure that a child is not only happy and safe in school but the same applied outside of school.
In a school which I visited earlier this month, I spoke to one child who said "I'm always in Isolation Abbianca, I'm failing in everything I know I can do better but teachers keep telling me I'm probably going to work in McDonald's because of my bad attitude. They don't give a sh*t about me only the smart kids". I asked him his thoughts on why so many young boys are getting involved in youth violence and his response was: "We're lost, we're lonely and easily influenced, looking for somewhere to belong in a society which doesn't believe in us. Being black makes it even harder"
I'm glad that the conversation on knife crime has come to surface but until we realise that as a society we all have a role to play nothing will change. It is more than just youth clubs, it is more than just police cuts. The truth is that I could be wrong, my ideas and my opinions may not be what helps the youth, but what I am trying to do is communicate with those who are suffering. Having pointless meetings with people who know nothing about the youth and gang violence is pointless; it is just a conversation with no substance. Why not invite the former offenders to your next meeting, invite those who have actually escaped the gangs and the violence? The youth have the answers.