We’ve been hearing a lot about violence, especially knife violence, over the last few weeks and months. Reports of deaths from knife crime are multiplying in the news, with reports that the number of teenagers killed with a knife has almost doubled in the last five years, and that at least ten have died so far in 2019 alone (4 March 2019).
Unsurprisingly, the immediate public response has been urgent and upset. Commentators are focussed on the need for more effective police enforcement to stop knife crime, even going as far as saying it should be treated as a national security crisis. Perhaps more unexpected is the reaction of ministers: Chancellor Philip Hammond announced in the Spring Statement last week (13 March) that an extra £100 million would be released for police enforcement against knife crime in England and Wales. There is no denying that this cash injection will be welcome after years of budget cuts for police. However, the £100 million falls short of the amount requested by police chiefs and is unlikely to be enough to address the root causes of knife crime and youth violence – especially given rising evidence that criminal justice interventions are ‘both damaging and disproportionate’.
For a realistic long-term strategy, we look to a different approach, which has been gaining traction in the world of prevention. As reported in a review of the evidence published last year by the LGA, with support from Cordis Bright, the public health approach to reducing violence offers a realistic alternative to tackling the violence problem, with a growing body of evidence to support interventions that look at violence from the public health perspective.
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