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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was a cultural giant. But prejudice and intolerance drove him to a miserable death. Now his story is to be told in film...
News
Neglect, prejudice and invisibility in the classrooms and playground is a way of life for LGBT children
education
Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks
tv

Regular cast member Ste Hay, played by Kieron Richardson, is about to test TV boundaries

Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
techPerils of 'text neck' revealed
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

SThree: Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncappd Comm: SThree: Do you have recruitment expe...

Sauce Recruitment: Head of Ad Sales - UK Broadcast

competitive + bonus + benefits: Sauce Recruitment: An award-winning global mul...

Recruitment Genius: Management Accountant - CIMA / ACCA

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A new and exciting opportunity ...

Guru Careers: Marketing Manager

£35 - 45k (DOE): Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Manager to join a gl...

Day In a Page

Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

Scoot commute

Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

The Paul Robeson story

How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

'How do you carry on? You have to...'

The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

Sir John Major hits out at theatres

Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

Kicking Barbie's butt

How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines
Will Smith's children have made waves with a gloriously over-the-top interview, but will their music match their musings?

What are Jaden and Willow on about?

Will Smith's children have made waves with a gloriously over-the-top interview, but will their music match their musings?
Fridge gate: How George Osborne keeping his fridge padlocked shows a frosty side to shared spaces

Cold war

How George Osborne keeping his fridge padlocked shows a frosty side to shared spaces
Stocking fillers: 10 best loo books

Stocking fillers: 10 best loo books

From dogs in cars to online etiquette, while away a few minutes in peace with one of these humorous, original and occasionally educational tomes
Malky Mackay appointed Wigan manager: Three texts keep Scot’s rehabilitation on a knife-edge

Three texts keep Mackay’s rehabilitation on a knife-edge

New Wigan manager said all the right things - but until the FA’s verdict is delivered he is still on probation, says Ian Herbert
Louis van Gaal: the liberal, the enemy and... err, the poet

Louis van Gaal: the liberal, the enemy and... err, the poet

‘O, Louis’ is the plaintive title of a biography about the Dutchman. Ian Herbert looks at what it tells us about the Manchester United manager
Isis in Iraq: Baghdad hails the retaking of the Baiji oil refinery as the start of the long fightback against the Islamist militants

Isis takes a big step back

Baghdad hails the retaking of the Baiji oil refinery as the start of the long fightback against the Islamist militants
Bill Cosby: America’s beloved TV ‘dad’ or serial rapist?

Bill Cosby: America’s beloved TV ‘dad’ or serial rapist?