Beyond the mainstream: the knife crime 'epidemic' and British politics

Peter Squires

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


During 2008 the British media, the public and British political institutions alike, became seized by a wholly unprecedented concern with ‘knife crime’. According to the media reporting, the problem seemed particularly concentrated in certain inner city areas, especially parts of London. Like the earlier reporting of ‘gun crime’, the problem seemed to involve young black men disproportionately as both victims and perpetrators. Each stabbing was reported in lurid detail, prompting profound concerns about a growing crisis of youth violence and urban safety. Yet the apparently simple message about rising youth violence conceals a more complex set of issues and explanations, which the public and political debates have largely overlooked. The knife crime ‘epidemic’, as it came to be called, coincided with a series of youth justice policy measures being rolled out by the government, and significantly influenced them. Although the broad thrust of the new policies had involved some more preventive and supportive measures, a renewed commitment to robust policing and tougher sentencing also came to be asserted. In turn, this commitment to tough reassurance policing (itself, arguably, part of the problem) seems likely to ensure that more fundamental questions about the roots of youth violence and the reproduction of conflict, fear and insecurity in urban areas remain sidelined.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)127-157
Number of pages31
JournalBritish Politics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2009


  • youth crime
  • violence
  • knives
  • weapons
  • policing
  • law and order


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