London has recorded its worst-ever annual death toll from teenage homicides, with a total of 30 boys and young men killed in 2021.
On December 30, a 15-year-old was stabbed to death in a park in Croydon, while a 16-year-old died after being stabbed in Hillingdon. These were the 29th and 30th teenage homicides in the British capital in 2021, surpassing the previous peak of 29 in 2008.
Most of those who died were victims of knife crime and many were killed by other teenagers or by young adults in their early 20s. The youngest victim was 14 years old.
The Metropolitan Police claims that homicide rates for last year were the same as the year before, but campaigners say efforts to tackle knife crime have been inadequate and it was now so prevalent that it was becoming normalised.
The latest stabbings have prompted renewed discussion about the possible causes of youth violence, with experts suggesting these include a rise in the number of children who are vulnerable, increased pressure on services such as policing, and social media fuelling the conflict.
Patrick Green, CEO of the eponymous Ben Kinsella Trust, an anti-knife crime charity that was set up in 2008 after the fatal stabbing of the 16-year-old in north London, told Euronews that there were “three essential reasons why we’re seeing knife crime, particularly amongst young people and particularly murders amongst young people increase in London.”
“The issue itself has never been properly tackled over the last 10 years or so. This is a societal problem. It’s not a crime surge. It’s something that we’ve seen consistently over the last decade and more. And it hasn’t been addressed correctly,” Green said.
“The long-term measures that are needed to tackle the key drivers in knife crime just haven’t been tackled properly.”
According to Green, the austerity policies installed by the UK government over the last decade also were “a big mistake” that participated in fuelling the conflict.
In England and Wales, 23,500 police staff jobs have been lost since 2010, according to figures from GMB, the union for police staff.
The figures include more than 7,000 cuts to Police Community Support Officer roles (PCSOs).
“We lost more than 20,000 police officers across the country. And we saw a decimation of youth services. Both of those play a huge part in tackling knife crime,” Green illustrated.
“But youth workers do essential work in engaging with young people and putting them on the right track, introducing them to positive mentors, positive adults that can shape their lives for the future and give them a strong counter-narrative to the misguided impression that a lot of young people hold that a knife can protect them — it doesn’t protect them, it just puts them in more danger,” he added.
The issue of knife crime is a problem that has been frequently highlighted in the UK in recent years, and many experts point to social media as being one of the culprits behind the tragic murders.
“One thing is strikingly evident: many of these incidents start with frivolous arguments between young people over something, and an orphan issue about feeling disrespected. Once they enter social media, they escalate and explode at a phenomenal rate and lead to some of these tragic incidents,” Green explained.
According to him, social media companies have been really slow to tackle the issue and to do more to educate young people around the dangers of knife crime.
“They really need to step up to the plate. Quite frankly, they shouldn’t be sitting on their hands doing nothing. They should be joining us here.”
Watch the full interview with Patrick Green, CEO of the Ben Kinsella Trust, in the video player, above.