Over the weekend, Tyson Fury described knife crime in Britain as a ‘pandemic', following the tragic and fatal stabbing of his cousin, Rio Burton. A 17-year-old boy was also injured, with two young men, aged 20 and 21, taken into custody.
Unfortunately, this tragic incident is not uncommon. Rates of knife crime in the UK have risen by 10% to 49,027 incidents during the year up to March 2022 in England and Wales alone.
The consequences of knife crime, particularly amongst young people, are devastating. 30 teenagers were victims of homicide in London in 2021, the vast majority of whom lost their lives after being attacked by their peers. The impact of this loss of life on families, friends and communities cannot be underestimated. The death of Tyson Fury’s cousin is just another reminder that we must ensure more is done to prevent young people from carrying and using blades.
However, tackling knife crime is a hugely complex challenge and to be effective, intervention must address the root causes, as well as mitigate the consequences.
Simply lecturing teenagers on what they should not do, or threatening longer custodial sentences is not the way forward, particularly when the causes of knife crime among young people are often the result of poor mental health and adverse childhood experiences. Instead, interventions that take place must be rooted in empowerment.
Young people need knowledge and comprehensive support so that they choose not to carry knives. They must also be equipped to respond effectively if they witness street violence.
One organisation that is leading the way in tackling this issue is StreetDoctors.
Its 'Reducing Violence Programme' trains young people aged 11 to 25 in how to provide emergency first aid to someone who has been knocked unconscious or stabbed.
Over 20,000 young people have been successfully trained by StreetDoctors since 2013, with this number set to rapidly increase following a recent collaboration with BoxWise, the flagship project of the Nick Maughan Foundation.
Seeking to tackle knife crime at a grassroots level, I founded BoxWise believing that young people can resist the gravitational pull of destructive gang culture if they are provided the requisite support to make successful transitions to adulthood.
The impact of this project has proven the value of hyperlocal intervention.
Through the power of boxing, our free ten-week programme helps vulnerable young people acquire essential life skills through training and confidence building programmes, as well as provides routes to employment and vocational training.
As our collaboration continues over the next few months, StreetDoctors will be attending BoxWise sessions across the country, offering essential first aid training to help the young people enrolled on our courses respond to street violence effectively.
Other grassroots organisations are making a real difference too. Lives Not Knives, aims to tackle the causes of youth violence in London amongst 9- to 21-year-olds.
The main focus of its programme is mentoring, which provides a tailored support system for young people who are most in need.
To date, the organisation has offered education on knife crime or direct one-to-one mentoring to over 10,000 young people, based around supporting individuals across 10 schools in Croydon. However, knife crime is not just a problem in our capital.
The tragic death of Rio Burton this weekend took place in Manchester, and Cleveland in Yorkshire has the highest rate of knife crime in the UK with 72 instances per 100,000 people – followed by Nottinghamshire and Merseyside, with London ranking fourth in the country.
Projects that can reach young people across the country are therefore key.
One national programme making a difference is the National Youth Anti Violence Educational Programme, which tours the UK with the Knife Angel, a large and striking sculpture made up of 100,000 blades seized from British streets.
Towns that host the sculpture must provide a month of educational workshops to raise awareness and educate young people on the dangers of knife crime, highlighting the negative consequences for those who carry knives, their victims and the wider community.
Tyson’s Fury’s pleas this weekend for tougher sentencing on knife crime is worthy of consideration.