By Esther Somade
There has been a sharp rise in crime involving the use of guns and knives in Manchester. The Greater Manchester Police, have reported that in the first quarter of 2019, there were around 787 recorded crimes involving the use of a knife. This includes threatening behaviour and possession of such weapons.
The authorities have taken varied measures in an attempt to curb the increase, including “[encouraging]licensed premises to use knife arches, detection wands and ‘nitenet’ radios to boost reporting to the police” (Manchester Evening News, 2018)but upon conducting research on this topic, it seems that the authorities need to listen to the voices of the youth, if we really want to see a reduction in the rate of youth homicides associated with such crimes.
This article, will explore possible underlying causes and propose strategies which can be adopted in the hope of facilitating change.
Research suggests that there is an ongoing crisis, whereby youth feel displaced and that their voices aren’t being heard. For example, the Greater Manchester Victim’s services, states that “young people often associate deadly weapons to having status, power and control or as a need for protection and safety.” (Greater Manchester Services, 2019)This implies, that young people no longer feel safe in their own communities which has consequently led to an increase in hypermasculinebehaviour amongst young individuals. To protect themselves, some young people have resorted to using violence and carrying such weapons in the hope of gaining “prestige on the streets”.
The increase in such violent crimes, suggests that there might be a message which the youth are trying to communicate to the authorities. The system which the government has constructed through the cutting of funding for public services is failing the young people because they don’t have many places to go where they can express themselves. This has consequently contributed to a broken society. AFRUCA, has outlined 2 significant contributing factors that have consequently led to the surge in gun and knife crime in Manchester.
There are some young people with parents who work anti-social hours in the hope of escaping the poverty trap. Consequently, this leaves the young person in search for a “surrogate family” (Slanzi, 2011)who will give them attention and a means to earn money to keep up with the trends.
- Lack of positive male role models
Official statistics show that 8.3% (GOV.UK, 2019)of lone parent households with dependent children are Black. Of this, Black Africans account for 20.2% (GOV.UK, 2019)of this “it is often argued that positive ‘male role models’ are increasingly absent from home.” (Ruxton, 2015)While many female lone parents do a good job in bringing up their children, the absence of male role models can be considered as a contributing factor in the increasing levels of delinquent behaviour as young black boys may join gangs in search of a male role model, and to reaffirm their masculine identity. Part of the requirements of being a gang member often includes carrying a weaponfor protection and to prove loyalty. What many young people fail to realise, is that if they “carry a weapon…it could be used against [them]” (Home Office, n.d.)With more young people carrying weapons on the streets, the rate of gun and knife crime is likely to rise.
Working to reduce the rate of gun and knife crime in Manchester, will require communities uniting to tackle the root causes, such as those listed above.
To do this, AFRUCA advises that the authorities should work alongside community organisations who can carry out the following strategy:
- Educate parents about the potential consequences of not making time for their children and how to remedy this
- Inform young people of the consequences of carrying such weapons, by creating a safe space for such conversations to be had and inviting perpetrators share their experiences
Tackling these contributing factors, will require the engagement of the communities in Manchester, because according to the African proverb, “it takes a village to raise a child”. Therefore, AFRUCA suggests that raising awareness in the community by targeting both parents and young people is a good place to start. This is because, it will enable parents to gain access to additional support in helping to meet the needs of their children.
Adopting strategies such as mentoring schemes and peer education whereby individuals who have turned their lives around can advise other vulnerable young people that it is not too late to do the same. However, we must note that not all those who are in involved in gang culture or are perpetrators in gun and knife crime, chose that life. We ought to pay attention to the victims who have been left with little choice but to carry weapons because of factors such as postcode wars.
The increase in gun and knife crime rates, should indicate to the government, the crisis which the youth are facing. As it has been said, “an idle mind is the devil’s workshop”, therefore it might be that due to the cuts in youth services for example, young people have been left with nothing to do after school and during the holidays. The government should consider investing in youth programs, to give young people opportunities to gain new skills and become better individuals in society.
AFRUCA is putting together a proposal to work with young people to listen to them and work with them in hope of understanding what they want to see in their communities, and to encourage them to stop carrying weapons.
Jesutofunmi Esther Somade is an undergraduate student at the London School of Economics and a 2019 Summer Intern at AFRUCA.
GOV.UK, 2019. Families and Households. [Online]
Available at: https://www.ethnicity-facts-figures.service.gov.uk/uk-population-by-ethnicity/demographics/families-and-households/1.1#black-ethnic-group-by-household-type
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[Accessed 24 06 2019].
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[Accessed 27 06 2019].