UK: As drug abuse rises, so do knife murders. I don’t think it’s a coincidence
This is Peter Hitchens’s Mail on Sunday column
Sometimes we lose sight of what is important while we concentrate on things that are merely interesting or exciting. In any other week the murder of Sami Sidhom in an East London street would rightly have been major news. As it is, it has swiftly become background noise.
A much-loved young man, Sami was stabbed in the back in the dark in a part of our capital which, until recently, had been peaceful and safe for a century or more.
He is one of 62 killed in London already this year. Unlike most other crime statistics, violent death figures cannot be massaged or twisted. They cannot be exaggerated when the police are demanding more money, or minimised when the Government is claiming it has got on top of crime.
So we should think seriously about them. But we never do. They can’t really have much to do with police numbers. The forces with the biggest falls in numbers have not experienced the biggest rises in serious violence.
At the start of this century, knife crime rose in spite of increased police numbers. After 2008, though police numbers fell, recorded knife crime fell too.
I’d be amazed if police numbers had any effect on anything myself, as the police are almost entirely absent from the streets and, at many times and in many places, there is very little evidence that they exist at all. You might as well blame social changes in this country on falls and rises in the number of schoolteachers in Japan.
I doubt claims that nasty material on social media has encouraged violence. But two very important things have changed. One is that the violent person has no fear of serious punishment if he kills. He will probably not be caught, and if he is he will suffer nothing worse than a few years in a prison run by people like him, where the drugs he likes are readily available.
The other is that he is in some way out of his mind because of those drugs. Anyone can pick up a knife, as they are everywhere and could not possibly be banned. But hardly anyone is unhinged enough to drive a sharpened steel blade into the body of another human being.