Leading article: Prison won't halt this epidemic of stabbing

Related Topics

Another day, another stabbing. On Saturday, a budding actor, Robert Knox, 18, was knifed to death in Sidcup, Kent. Yesterday, a 19-year-old was in critical condition after being stabbed in East Ham, east London. Earlier this month, Jimmy Mizen, 16, was stabbed to death at Lee, in south-east London. Fatal knife crimes are losing their power to shock. As the gap between each crime closes, we have less time to absorb what happened. Faces blur. Stabbing is becoming a routine occurrence, at least in London and other cities.

Many people's reaction will be to panic. Understandably so. No one looking at the statistics can claim these sorts of crime are not rising, even as other forms of crime, such as break-ins or car thefts, taper off. It is no good politicians trying to comfort the public with talk of the fear of crime being part of the problem. People are not persuaded by graphs showing overall crime levels going down, either. It is not economic crimes or frauds that worry them, but random violence.

The lack of any obvious motive ratchets up the fear, driving people off public transport and out of public spaces, such as parks and swimming pools. Robert Knox died in a pub brawl. Jimmy Mizen appears to have been killed while trying to calm another dispute. Yesterday's victim was apparently involved in a trivial dispute over a mobile phone, which may have triggered the assault.

But as unease mounts about knife crime, we must pause before reaching for instant responses such as increased use of stop and search powers and more and longer custodial sentences for teenagers. We need to listen to those who work closest with the kind of youngsters who get involved in inner-city youth crime, such as Camila Batmanghelidjh of Kids Company, who is interviewed in today's Independent. None sees boot camps and tougher, longer prison sentences for young people as even part of the solution. Ms Batmanghelidjh talks, disturbingly, of a new generation of children who are capable of extreme violence as a consequence of, and response to, a combination of neglect and abuse in childhood.

These children are chaotic and entirely unsocialised and short, sharp shocks appear unlikely to implant in them the kind of behavioural boundaries that are needed to stop them from re-offending.

While not patronising the public about the seriousness of knife crime in Britain, we must not resort to facile-sounding solutions that simply fill up prisons. Repairing the damaged fabric of a generation of children, some of whom have never learned to care for themselves, let alone for others, is a long-term business for which there is no easy answer.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: 3rd Line Virtualisation, Windows & Server Engineer

£40000 - £47000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 3rd Line Virtualisation / Sto...

Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Engineer

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Fixed Term Contract

£17500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently require an experie...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Andy Coulson  

Andy Coulson: With former News of the World editor cleared of perjury charges, what will he do next?

James Cusick James Cusick
Jack Warner  

Fifa corruption: Strip Qatar of the World Cup? Not likely

Tom Peck
Syria civil war: Meet the military commander who says his soldiers will not rest until every inch of their war torn country is free of Islamist 'terrorists'

‘We won’t stop until Syria is back to normal’

Near the front lines with Islamist-controlled towns where Assad’s troops were besieged just last month, Robert Fisk meets a commander confidently preparing his soldiers for battle
Fifa corruption: Strip Qatar of the World Cup? Not likely

Strip Qatar of the World Cup? Not likely

But if a real smoking gun is found, that might change things, says Tom Peck
Twenty two years later Jurassic Park series faces questions over accuracy of the fictional dinosaurs in it

Tyrannosaurus wrecked?

Twenty two years on, Jurassic Park faces questions over accuracy
The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation may undermine Hillary's chances

The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation...

... and how it may undermine Hillary's chances in 2016
Genes greatly influence when and how many babies a woman will have, study finds

Mother’s genes play key role in decision to start a family

Study's findings suggest that human fertility is still evolving
12 best olive oils

Extra-virgin, cold-press, early-harvest, ultra-premium: 12 best olive oils

Choosing an olive oil is a surprising minefield. Save yourself the hassle with our handy guide
Rafa Benitez Real Madrid unveiling: New manager full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

Benitez full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

There were tears in the former Liverpool manager’s eyes as he was unveiled as Real Madrid coach. But the Spaniard knows he must make tough decisions if he is to succeed
England can win the Ashes – and Elvis Presley will present the urn

England can win the Ashes – and Elvis will present the urn

In their last five Test, they have lost two and drawn two and defeated an India side last summer who thought that turning up was competing, says Stephen Brenkley
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)