The headlines have been ominous. London is now deadlier than New York, we heard a few weeks ago. Every day there seems to be a new murder, stabbing, or violent crime on our radio waves and TV screens — not only in London, but in other major UK cities. It’s important to keep the scaremongering headlines about London crime in some kind of perspective. Overall crime has been steadily falling since 1995. But the reason your TV and newspaper headlines have been particularly threatening of late is that, despite the fall in crime generally, violent crime is indeed on the rise. Last year alone saw a 22 percent increase in knife crime and an 11 percent rise in gun crime, according to the police. Those are huge figures. There’s an obvious reason that they scare people. But the truth is most of us will never be victims of crimes, let alone violent crimes. There’s one demographic that’s paying the price and not getting the attention it deserves — young men, especially young black men, are the real victims of the violent crime increase.
“I think this has been one of the problems with policy: we say our risk of being a victim of violence is much lower, but who are ‘we’ and who are we not including in that category?” Richard Garside, director of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies told the Guardian. “There are particular age groups and localities where, to put it bluntly, being young and male – and particularly being young, male and black in some parts of London and other major cities – is potentially lethal in and of itself. They are at much higher risk of being a victim of a violent assault than the general population.”
So we need to look seriously at the root causes. Some point to cuts in the number of police community support officers (PCSOs), which has been particularly felt in London. While one in four PCSO jobs have been cut over the last decade in England and Wales, the trend in London is much higher, where three in five PCSO positions have been cut. Youth services are increasingly threatened. We’re not providing the support needed to vulnerable young people, who can both turn to crime and be the victims of it. There is no doubt that deadly crime feels more present in London and that violent crime is on the rise — but we need to look at who’s really threatened by it. And how we can help them.