Scotland’s Solution to Knife Crime
Knife crime in Scotland increased by 5% in the first half of 2016-17, Police Scotland statistics have shown.
This means that 116 more people were caught carrying knives than in the same period last year. Scotland has a unique history with knife crime, especially in Glasgow, which was once called the murder capital of Europe. Any increase in knife crime might seem like cause for concern but Scotland has maintained many initiatives to put an end to their knife crime epidemic.
Ten years ago, homicides were at the highest levels since 1984 with 124 homicides that year. Homicides in 2007-08 were at 115, with Glasgow City alone accounting for a third of the homicide rate, according to the Scottish Government. Today, that number has dropped by 47%.
“Scotland has treated violence as a public health problem which means that it is not just a problem for the police”- Claire Stewart
Claire Stewart, spokesperson for Scotland Violence Reduction Unit, said: “one key factor that has helped is that Scotland has treated violence as a public health problem which means that it is not just a problem for the police”.
Scotland Violence Reduction Unit (SVRU) was started by the Strathclyde Police in response to the high homicide rate in 2004-05. The organisation is government funded as part of Police Scotland. The unit was challenged with the task of reducing the violence and knife crime that plagued Glasgow.
Interview with Jane Dailly. She is discussing whether or not tougher prison sentences for youth would be a better deterrent against knife crime in Scotland.
One of SVRU’s most successful projects was the Community Initiative to Reduce Violence (CIRV). It was originally a program that started in Boston in the 1990s and was used in Glasgow to tackle gang violence. Glasgow had a network of gangs that were gathered and taken to court. Gang members either had to face a prison sentence or allow SVRU to assist them in finding employment and tackle the issues that were trapping them in a cycle of violence.
Stewart said: “We believe CIRV was a very effective program in conjunction with changes in the law which SVRU lobbied for around the position of a knife. Those laws have been tightened up in Scotland. There was a lot of campaigning work which resulted in anyone who was found with a knife was automatically detained and it sent a very strong message that knife carrying was no longer going to be tolerated in Scotland”
The next step that Scotland needed to tackle was educating its younger population on the consequences of carrying a knife. Jane Dailly, national coordinator for No Knives, Better Lives and YouthLink Scotland – The National Agency for Youth Work, said: “Back in 2009, research suggested young people weren’t particularly aware of the legal consequences or wouldn’t have considered the legal or personal consequences of even being caught carrying a knife”.
“One set of statistics should always come with a health warning. We really have to take a wider look at the figures and not just police figures.”- Claire Stewart
No Knives, Better Lives (NKBL) is a national agency for youth work that was started in 2009 and works with 25 of the local authority areas in Scotland. They support these areas by offering strategic approaches to knife carrying prevention, youth education, and training for police officers, campus officers, youth workers and teachers on the most effective ways to speak to young people about knife carrying. The organisation also trains teens to become peer educators.
NKBL reaches Scottish youth through public engagement and their media platforms. Their advertising campaign were films designed to display the consequences of being caught with a knife. The organisations created films around true events of people in Scotland whose lives had completely changed due to knife crime.
Dailly, said: “We think that young people should be informed of the legal risk and consequences but it doesn’t act as much of a deterrent but the personal impact that it would have on their own families or on the families of victims does have much more of an impact and is much more likely to influence young people’s attitudes towards carrying a knife or the likelihood that they might carry a knife.”
With an increase in knife crime, it is important to be alert to what is going on. Violence is a cycle that can start again if people are not actively working to eliminate it. However, statistics can be misleading if we are not looking at the overall downward trend that has occurred in Scotland.
Stewart said: “One set of statistics should always come with a health warning. We really have to take a wider look at the figures and not just police figures and we have to see them in context because actually we have seen such a dramatic drop and it would be unlikely that drop would keep continuing without some uptick before another decline”.