Editor-At-Large: Here's one way to reduce knife crime – look the other way

Thoughtful work done quietly at grassroots level will do more to help put wayward youths on track than screeching headlines
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The Independent Online

Knife crime has become one of those fashionable "causes" that every well-meaning pop star, actress or whatever, can sign up to and self-importantly register their "concern". Just as we were flogged silly rubber wristbands which read "make poverty history" – as if any single one of us didn't want to make poverty history – now you've got the chance to buy a T-shirt designed by Henry Holland or some other trendy, telling you that knife crime is a bad thing. Hold the bloody front page! You don't say? Honestly, I never realised that sticking a knife in someone wasn't a great idea. Lily Allen is telling kids to stop using knives on her blog and informing the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, of her plans to hold "Knife Aid", a concert dedicated to helping the victims' families.

Better stop Bono getting on the phone to the Pope, Bob Geldof, Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela, getting Giorgio Armani to come up with a rucksack and Miss Dynamite to record a special song – "Knife crime / You know it ain't right...". The reasons why kids carry knives will not be resolved by T-shirts, songs, concerts or posters. They involve more parental support, more appropriate education for young men, increased funding for after-school activities for teenagers, and more community workers. And we haven't got a "lost" generation – nine out of 10 kids are perfectly fine.

Crime figures published last week seemed to show a drop in violent crime. What is perplexing is that all over the country, even where it is not an issue – in rural areas for example – public perception of crime is at odds with the reality. According to The Daily Telegraph, one person is a victim of knife crime every four minutes.

Some newspapers talk of an epidemic, but statistics reveal a different picture. In the large county of North Yorkshire, only 66 incidents of violence using a knife were recorded in a year, in Norfolk 67, Dorset, just 47, Cumbria 73, the City of London 19. More than half of all knife attacks – the figures recorded as a separate category for the first time – took place in a small number of cities. No surprises there.

Cherie Blair says figures don't reveal the true picture – the number of young people getting harmed by their peers and not reporting it. I agree, but here are some other statistics about our teenagers – in 2007, 4 per cent fewer 11-to 15-year-olds had drunk alcohol in the previous week than did in 2000 (according to a government-conducted survey of 7,800 of them) .

Fewer of them had used drugs, and the numbers who smoked every week had dropped to the lowest level since the annual survey of their health started in 1982. Moaning about the numbers who do drink (20 per cent) and try drugs (25 per cent) is just a negative way at looking at a positive trend.

I'm not being simplistic, but it does seem that the only way we refer to our young is in terms of a perceived problem. Meanwhile, the Government's Chief Medical Officer seeks a total ban on drinking and driving for 17- to 20-year-olds, and wants a national conference to examine teenagers' health. In Scotland, the Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill has called for a crackdown on the "booze and blades" culture.

Perhaps the only way to end knife crime is to stop focusing on it – with all the current attention, it will just seem even more fashionable to some impressionable young men for whom image and status are everything. Instead, by working quietly at grassroots level to offer support, we might stand a chance. Headlines and T-shirts just fan the fascination with a problem that's not going to be fixed overnight.

Why this woman should be Wife of the Year

This weekend I'm sure that long-suffering Jo Wood will be surrounded by a supportive family, while Ronnie starts treatment for alcoholism for the seventh time. If there are any awards for wife of the year, then glamorous Jo is my nominee. Staying married to Ronnie for 23 years, she's proved herself a winner. Ronnie painted my portrait, and having met them both, one immediately notices what a close family unit they are and how well-mannered and considerate the kids seem. Whatever failings Ronnie has, he's been a great dad, and son Jesse flew to Ireland to bring him back to rehab. Daughter Leah's wedding, where the guests wore vintage dresses and the reception was held in their garden, was a stylish and unpretentious affair. Let's be brutally honest about alcoholism – drunks downing a couple of bottles of vodka a day can't shag. They're acting out a fantasy of their own making, and a 20-year-old waitress was just all part of Ronnie's refusal to face up to reality. I don't blame him – he is an addict– luckily he's blessed with an understanding (and non-judgemental) wife.

It's trendy to holiday in Britain, preferably in a tent

The financial news is gloomy with inflation at its highest level for 16 years. But one British company is doing well – less cash to spend on holidays abroad means more of us (not just Gordon Brown and David Cameron) will spend this summer in the UK. And what better way to economise than a camping holiday? No snotty receptionists, no rip-off breakfasts and no moaning about paper-thin walls. Unlike ailing retailers failing to flog frocks or refrigerators, Blacks Leisure report a boom in sales of four-person family tents, and bookings at campsites around the country are up 10 per cent. Weigh up the options – cheap B&B or sodden tent in the rain-swept Highlands? When the car becomes your living room and drying zone, it's grim. On the plus side, you can play music loudly, and forget about any dress codes. And bed is a couple of paces from the alfresco dining room.

My doctor fixed it for me

The curse of Glen Etive has struck again, 15 miles off the tourist honeypot of Glencoe. Last year, I fell down a dry riverbed, covering myself in bruises. My hip is still messed up. This year, it was raining, but this plucky Brit set off over a couple of mountains, armed with walking poles. After fording raging torrents, I slipped, snapping (a small bone in) my ankle. The next few hours were spent in A and E at Belmont Hospital, Fort William. David Sedgwick, the surgeon, told me he never watched telly as he had six children ... and brought me down to size by pointing out that they already had a celebrity – Sir Jimmy Savile. He has a house in Glencoe, if you're passing.

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