Sputnik spoke with Professor Stephen Case from Loughborough University for more insight on the issue.
Sputnik: how significant are these findings?
Stephen Case: The significance or problem for these kinds of stats and headlines is that they are interpreted to suggest that there's a problem with children's behavior in society, which we need to respond to through controlling and punitive punishment led kind of measures such as this new knife crime as both its being mooted by the secretary.
What that does, at least in part is take our attention away from the root causes of these problems. What we should be asking first and foremost is why are so many children in the need to join gangs? What is common about these types of children that are joining gangs because that will get us to part of the answer and commonality tends to be around disadvantage disaffection minority group membership, living in socially deployed neighborhoods and things like this being a victim of crime.
Sputnik: The symptoms of gang culture and gang violence in the UK have been rapidly getting worse year on year now for some time. Despite clever slogans from politicians very little has changed… do politicians really understand what the root causes of gang culture and knife crime?
Stephen Case: No. I think that politicians such as our current Home Secretary either refuse to understand, willfully misunderstand or do understand, but ignore these root causes, because they don't allow for quick wins. They're not easy solutions. Changing what I call toxic environments is not an easy solution to a social problem.
It's a long term expensive strategy, which doesn't suit political agenda and certainly doesn't fit within a current with the current in the current climate of austerity. So now, I don't think they really do understand the problem or will acknowledge their own role in creating or exacerbating it.
Stephen Case: There are no quick fixes. There are no easy solutions that the difference between urgency and kind of speed in addressing these kinds of issues.
One thing that I would certainly suggest is that the government back away from this knife crime ASBO agenda that they have, because it's going to exacerbate the situation it's going to criminalize more and more young people urgent and timely measures and feel about reinvesting in communities reinvesting in services such as policing and community measures and neighborhood provision education and training social care — actually getting to the heart of the root causes of these kinds of problems.
Children in gangs, children who commit knife, children crime who use of substance use as part of gangs; they fit a profile of a particular working class, like an ethnic minority, immigrant, socially deprived neighborhoods, histories of being in care, histories of abuse and neglect and trauma and all these kinds of issues that need to be addressed actually through investment outside of a youth justice system.
It’s about a philosophy of not criminalizing further because it only makes the problem worse for children for communities and makes it more expensive, put more pressure on the youth justice system, we need to change the mindset.
Views and opinions expressed in this article are those of Stephen Case and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.