Thursday, 3 June 2010

North London vs South London knife crime. Not all young people in South London are bad Boris.

I was just leaving work yesterday when the Tweets started to come in thick and fast.  Boris was in Vauxhall with a tonne of policefolk.  Of course, I assumed that they were just publicly clamping down on fare-dodging on the the 436 (known as the "free bus"), or maybe doing their border control thing, stopping the South Londoners going North.  But actually, Boris was busy worrying about half-term and the wild youth of Lambeth.

Perhaps I'm wrong in my assertion that Boris has no love for South London.  After all, he wouldn't visit if he didn't consider us once in a while.  One might assume that he'd need to visit Vauxhall to think about, you know, town centre planning, or a regeneration consultation or to look at the tall buildings he opposes and talk about sensible architectural policy and social housing.  Wrong.  Boris just visits dirty, bad, scary South London to test out his new knife arches.   These are knife arches that  have not been proven to reduce deaths through knife crime, or indeed been shown to improve community/youth relations.  Indeed, if you were a part of the majority of young people (the ones that don't carry knives and work/study hard), would you feel like a welcome member of society, when you were forced by police to walk through a knife arch?  Something tells me that many youths are not going to be as happy about it as the pretty-boy model used for the illustration.  And why should they be?

In the same way that Mr Onionbag protested when his patch in Oval was used to film the Bill, on the basis  that we already have a high police presence, I wish to question why Vauxhall was chosen for the BoJo knife arch demonstration.  Does the Vauxhall area need further adverse publicity?  I decided to conduct a little analysis on the 2006 and 2007 figures for knife crime, to try to determine whether it's worse in South London than in North, to see whether we really needed swarms of police testing knife arches in Vauxhall today.  The results are quite surprising.

Knife crime incidents that resulted in death (2006)
North London - (18 boroughs with some incident) and 49 total deaths = 2.72 deaths per borough.
South London - (10 boroughs with some incident) and 27 total deaths = 2.7 deaths per borough

Knife crime incidents that resulted in death (2007)
North London - (16 boroughs with some incident) and 46 total deaths = 2.875 deaths per borough
South London - (09 boroughs with some incident) and 26 total deaths = 2.89 deaths per borough

These figures are so close and seem to demonstrate that the knife crime deaths are very evenly balanced across the capital year-on-year.  If you were to add into the mix the number of boroughs where no knife crime took place (which I've not done), I believe that South London would show a lower ratio of knife crime deaths than North London in both years, but only by a small amount.

Consequently, I went back to the number crunching and analysed the figures for the number of people suffering serious injury as a result of being stabbed, in the hope that I'd yield a significant difference between North and South London.   These are slightly better figures since all boroughs had at least one incident each year, so all boroughs are taken into account in these results.

Incidents that resulted in serious injury due to stabbing (2006)
North London - (19 total boroughs) and 233 injuries = 12.2 injuries per borough.
South London - (13 total boroughs) and 151 injuries = 11.61 injuries per borough.

Incidents that resulted in serious injury due to stabbing (2007)
North London - (19 total boroughs) and 215 injuries = 11.21 injuries per borough.
South London - (13 total boroughs) and 139 injuries = 10.69 injuries per borough

These figures clearly show that South London is somewhat safer to lurk about in, although the southern most boroughs in South London do take up some of the slack, with Richmond etc. being extra-safe.

It seems that all of the figures are still too high.  One death is one too many.  But I'm not convinced about the effectiveness of knife arches for resolving what are essentially deep-rooted social issues concerning schooling, parenting and policing.  Personally, I think the 100 London table-tennis tables idea, gimmicky though it is, will do more to encourage neighbours to talk to one another than knife arches.  Once upon a time, Londoners used to say that careless talk might cost lives.  Today, perhaps it is a failure to talk that costs lives.

In the meantime, next time you want to do a knife arch demonstration, would it be ok to do it north of the River, where there is proportionately more knife crime across the boroughs, please Boris?


Mark L said...

These random searches infuriate me.

Taken directly from the Met's website (

Section 60 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, gives police the right to search people in a defined area at a specific time when they believe, with good reason, that: there is the possibility of serious violence; or that a person is carrying a dangerous object or offensive weapon; or that an incident involving serious violence has taken place and a dangerous instrument or offensive weapon used in the incident is being carried in the locality. This law has to be authorised by a senior officer and is used mainly to tackle football hooliganism and gang fights.

Section 44 Terrorism Act 2000 gives police the power to search vehicles and people for items that could be used to commit a terrorist act. Police can search anybody anywhere under this law, and they do not need reasonable suspicion to do so. It is under this law that police conduct random searches in train and tube stations.

So the police are either using S60 powers that can only be used where there is a specific threat of gang violence at that time and place (in Vauxhall station? I doubt it) or S44 where there is a terror threat.

So police were conducting these searches either to prevent gang violence at a specific time/place where they believe it will occur (unjustifiable at Vauxhall station) on the legal premise that they were for the purposes of preventing terrorism, but the stated aim of the searches is to 'prevent' knife crime? To me this seems like an absolute abuse of power.

Even though police can not discriminate by age when executing these searches, in practice they disproportionately target young people, making them feel victimised and harassed, leading to disenfranchisement.

I have had friends question the legal power of police to execute these searches (in a rational way - he's a lawyer) and was told bluntly that if he wanted to discuss it, he should "come down the station with us"


Jane said...

Nothing particularly relevant to write with regards to this particular post: I just wanted to say what a pleasure it was to stumble across your well-written and informative blog earlier today. As an Oval-dweller I have a vested interest that you keep up the good work - so please do!

Annalisa Monzione said...

Hi there,

Knife Crime across London is a real issue. In the last month alone there have been several stabbings involving young people. It is such a huge issue to tackle and what a lot of people fail to see is it's not taking knives/weapons off young people it's actually educating them not to pick up knives in the first place and helping young people make more positive choices.

Anonymous said...

if you had done it by population, the ratio for south london would be a lot lower.

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