Belmont Club


Sharp“Knife crime” is apparently on the rise in the UK. Cherie Blair was quoted by the Independent as saying that she fears for her children in an environment where murders are apparently caused by the availability of bladed weapons.

Cherie Blair admitted yesterday that she fears for the safety of her children when they go out on the streets. She also claimed that government figures drastically underestimate the scale of knife crime among children in Britain. …

Mrs Blair attacked government statistics which, she said, “did not acknowledge what is happening to young people” and called for a new approach to tackle the “lethal fashion accessories”.

Mrs Blair, who has four children, told the Home Affairs Select Committee: “As a parent, I am concerned about what’s happening when my children are on the street and I know I am not unique in that by any means. If young people think they can carry knives and no one is ever going to pick them up carrying a knife, then they are more likely to take one out. Whereas, if they think when they carry a knife that’s going to be detected, that may well make a really big difference.”

The concern over knives was highlighted by several high-profile murders in the British capital, one of which involved the torture, stabbing and burning of two French biology students in their apartment. They were stabbed nearly 250 times. A Telegraph story conveys the atmospherics.

A teenage boy has died after being stabbed by a gang of youths in south London. The 16-year-old, named as Shakilus Townsend, was repeatedly stabbed by at least six hooded and masked youths yesterday afternoon. … Shakilus is the 18th victim this year of London’s knife crime crisis. The attack comes four days after 16-year-old Ben Kinsella was stabbed to death in Islington and two French students, Laurent Bonomo and Gabriel Ferez, 23, were found stabbed and burned in New Cross.

The French press is calling London “the city of blades”. One journalist wrote with an unintended Gallic charm, “these things happen all the time in London, I lived there and ‘le stabbing‘ is the fashion.” The Brussels Journal wrote:

Violent crime has doubled since Labour came to power a decade ago. Stabbings and assault in Britain are now common, if not daily occurrences; at night city centers are generally regarded as no-go areas; “feral” youths and gangs loitering the streets – often drunk on cheap alcohol – make many people too afraid to go for a walk on a summer evening.

Every week yields up plenty of reasons why people have good reason to be scared in modern Britain. On Saturday evening 60-year old Stan Dixon, a former soldier, was attacked by youths, for asking them not to swear in front of a woman. He died yesterday in hospital. 17 teenagers have been murdered in London alone this year. The latest victim, 16 year-old Ben Kinsella, was killed on Sunday night. On Tuesday Dee Willis, a 28 year-old woman, was stabbed to death by a female attacker in south-east London. Today, the country woke up to reports of the extremely brutal and apparently motiveless murder of two French exchange students, Laurent Bonomo and Gabriel Ferez (both 23). The two men had been playing computer games at Mr. Bonomo’s apartment in New Cross, south-east London, on Sunday night, when they were attacked, gagged, tortured (suffering nearly 250 stab wounds between them), and their bodies set on fire.

Despite Cherie Blair’s belief that increasing the penalties for possessing a sharp object will help solve the problem, I am unpersuaded that “knife-free zones” are an effective solution. Knives, for most of recent history, were as common as shirts. Readers of 19th century British fiction know that the children of that era sharpened their pencils with pocket knives. Farmers carried bladed implements as a matter of course. And there were knives in kitchens, eateries and workplaces. Many tradesmen had not one, but several in their pockets. Even mild-mannered draftsmen wielded X-acto knives.

And as anyone who has mis-spent his youth can testify, what constitutes a bladed weapon is limited only by the imagination. A wine bottle rapped against a railing. An artfully folded aluminum can. Forks bent to fit around your hand. Ballpoint pens. Sticks cut at an angle. Flathead screwdrivers. Hard wire. Anyone who works in corrections knows that a determined man can make a weapon out of practically anything.

The implements of mayhem were always ready to hand. What was lacking once was the wolfpack social infrastructure to wield it at random. The hardware remained largely inert until the right software was downloaded to animate it into chopping, slashing and stabbing motions. Maybe what we need is a software patch, not downrated hardware.

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