20 December 2007

Why Carry Or Use A Knife?

The Centre for Crime and Justice Studies has a revised report out, called "Knife Crime -- A Review of Evidence and Policy," first published as a briefing paper in August 2006.

It's key to understand why youth carry knives. Or why youth and adults take drugs. Or why people binge drink and binge drink. Or why men rape.

If we don't understand why, and we just lock people up for years and years, we won't cure the problem.

Insecurity and protection are key factors in knife carrying among young people. The 2004 YJB Youth Survey found that 2 per cent of the children in school surveyed and 10 per cent of excluded children had taken a weapon to school to defend [themselves]. More tellingly, the same survey found that children who have been the victim of a crime are more likely to carry a knife than those who have not been a victim.

Among excluded children, 62 per cent who had been a victim of a crime carried a knife compared with 51 per cent who had not been a victim.

More than eight in ten (85 per cent) of those who said they had carried a knife in the last 12 months said the main reason for doing so was for protection; 9 per cent said that it was in case they got into a fight; and 6 per cent mentioned another reason.

Other research has found that knife carrying among young people is also linked to whether they feel safe from crime and victimisation. A report commissioned by the Bridge House Trust, "Fear and Fashion," which sought the views of practitioners working with young people, concluded that fear of crime, experience – direct or otherwise – of victimisation and the desire for status in an unequal society are the chief motivations for carrying a knife.

The report also provided some explanation for the apparently high levels of knife carrying among excluded children and the spread of knife carrying among young people:

The possession of a knife or other weapon can also be a means of acquiring status. Children who experience failure at school or other kinds of social exclusion could be looking for status by carrying and brandishing a knife. Harriet Harman, [currently Deputy Leader of Labour], makes a link with race: "There is clearly a sense that this is an unequal society where you are blocked by the colour of your skin, and there is a feeling that you achieve status not by getting a degree or by qualifications but by having a knife."

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