Guns, Gangs and Knives, Radio 4

Can we stop this moral squalor?

Perhaps the most important programme of the week, if you're worried about kids in gangs carrying guns and knives, was Radio 4's Ganges, Guns and Knives. One was grateful that the producers did not try to play clever buggers with the title.

It made unsettling listening. The Radio 4 demographic and that of the kids being interviewed and discussed rarely intersect, except in each others' bad dreams. Meet Jay, a young Liverpudlian lout whose family makes the cast of Shameless look like the upstairs family in Upstairs, Downstairs. If you do not earn a prison sentence in this family, you suspect, you are looked on as something of a black sheep. He talks casually about inflicting and receiving violence in a Scouse accent which does not recall the cheeky, endearing accents of, say, the Beatles, but sounds instead like someone trying to clear something phlegmy from the back of their throat. At times I yearned for some kind of way of having subtitles on the radio, and I'm good with accents. Still, one got the gist.

Attempting to address and redirect the likely trajectory of Jay's life, and the lives of others like him, is Bob Croxton, who has himself served nine years for heroin dealing, and so not only knows whereof he speaks but can gain the respect of those he is speaking to. He gives classes to groups of youngsters at risk from submerging themselves in a sea of violence and crime.

"What's the best way to protect yourself from a knife?" He asked.

"Carry one?" Suggested one lad hopefully. Wrong answer.

"Run. Just run." I think I could have got that one.

"To be a good criminal," said Bob, and you can imagine his audience pricking their ears up at this, "you've got to understand what you're involved in." He then gave them a multiple-choice test. It was like being at school, but with exams rigged for relevance. What is the maximum sentence for carrying a knife? How many ounces in a kilo? Jay, who struggles with literacy at school, proved himself to be something of a whizz at maths, shot back with 38, which was accepted as the right answer (I make it 35.27, but then I'm not going to argue with Jay, or indeed Bob). Do I have to explain why Jay might find himself obliged to convert imperial into metric in a hurry? Oh, you sweet country mouse, you.

The encouraging news was that, according to Bob, 95 per cent of gang members, given the right guidance and information, will realise the dead-end nature of the life. And while not shirking from portraying the moral squalor of ratbags like Jay, the programme managed to undermine the knee-jerk reaction most commonly felt when contemplating knife-wielding gangsters; it was "crystal clear", said one knowledgeable interviewee, that enforcement was not the solution to the problem. Reduce poverty, unemployment, pay more attention to education, and do something about parents who are either too indifferent, scared or actively involved in criminality – that kind of thing. Of course, sometimes children are intractable. Jay was offered a job interview to evade the probability of a prison sentence. Only he didn't show up. The idiot.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...

Guru Careers: Business Development Manager / Sales Executive

£20 - £30k DOE + OTE + BENEFITS: Guru Careers: A Business Development Manager ...

Guru Careers: Copywriter / Direct Response Copywriter

£20k plus sales linked bonus. : Guru Careers: We are seeking a Copywriter to j...

Guru Careers: 3D Creative Designer

Up to £26k DOE: Guru Careers: A Junior / Mid-Level 3D Creative Designer is nee...

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen