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UK's New Measures to Combat Knife Crime Epidemic

By Tom Rivers
13 July 2008

Britain Announces New Measures to Combat Knife Crime Epidemic

Britain's top law and order official, Jacqui Smith, has announced a number of new initiatives aimed at combating the country's growing knife crime epidemic.

Knife attacks on the streets of Britain are a growing problem, raising fears in communities up and down the country.

Four unrelated fatal stabbings one day last week in London brought to 50 the number of people slain by knife this year in the capital, and of those 20 were teenagers.

Britain's top law and order official is Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, speaking on Sky News, acknowledged the threat is real and growing.

"There are younger people who are now carrying and using knives, and therefore there are more young victims and I think that is a cause for concern," she said. "And I think, you know, all of us understand, whatever top level statistics might say, that this is a serious problem that even if it is not happening down your street, [it] makes you feel nervous and unconfident and that is what we need to address."

The government says new measures designed to rein in the knife threat on the street will be unveiled Tuesday.

One idea is to require problem pubs and nightclubs to screen customers for weapons prior to entry. Another measure Smith backs would force young offenders to meet knife-crime victims to see first hand the damage it brings to them and their loved ones.

"I think what would be tougher is actually being made to face up to the sorts of implications of young people carrying knives on our streets," added Smith. "What it means in terms of gruesome injuries, what it could well mean to you future if you end up in prison, what it means to the families of those who actually lose people through knife crime. And I am very keen that actually we make people face up to the consequence."

But opposition politicians like Iain Duncan Smith accuse Prime Minister Gordon Brown's government of stringing together a number of proposals that will grab headlines, but will fail to solve the problem.

"They are are not doing the whole package. The whole package deals with family break-down, drug and alcohol abuse, it deals with debt and really terrible debt and the doorstep lending that goes on these communities, the education system, which is appallingly bad, that give these people absolutely no choice, changing lots of that," said Iain Duncan Smith. "These are the big issues that we talk about. What Gordon Brown is doing at the moment is cherry picking into it, and it will not work. You have to do the whole thing."

At the Royal London hospital, Dr. Mike Walsh sees knife victims all too often. He says no single group is going to solve the problem. Walsh says a coordinated effort is what is required.

"In the long run I think the best approach for this is going to be prevention, which I think, so we do not have to do these operations at all or look after these young men. I suspect this is going to need a really coordinated effort between government, police, probably most importantly community groups and families," said Walsh.

Despite a media campaign warning teenagers that carrying a knife makes them more at risk, not safer, a recent six-week police operation in London involving random searches netted 500 knives.


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