The West Midlands has been crowned the number one spot for knife crime in the UK after Office for National Statistics (ONS) research revealed the region had the highest knife related incidents since the start of 2023.
Birmingham locals complain that not enough is being done to deal with the problem. Some (who grew up here) even claim that they have never felt as unsafe as they do now when leaving their homes.
Coming in first but finishing last
The number of knife crime incidents in the West Midlands saw the biggest jump two years ago, up from 3,140 offences in 2020 to 4,060 offences in 2021, the largest difference recorded in the West Midlands.
With crime rates on the rise, especially in Birmingham where the largest portion of the offences took place according to the data, locals such as Chris, who has lived his whole life in the city, said: “I used to feel safer. Nowadays it’s a lot worse than when I was younger. We can’t be living like that, especially when you have kids.”
Local criminology student Cassiann said: “Knife crime is very typical here. It’s really scary to think that someone could just come up to you and stab you.”
Nick is a security guard who has been working in the industry for more than 10 years. He said: “I deal with crime all the time working security and I’ve seen an increase in knife crime to the point where a lot of my colleagues don’t even want to do security anymore.”
Tay is another Birmingham local who moved to the city six years ago. He said: “I do not feel safe in Brum, 100% no. Two boys died the other day. I have to be cautious when I leave my house and have to look out everywhere I go.”
The second highest demographic
Looking deeper into the statistics, the second most common age group of those committing the knife crimes may come as a surprise to many. The main age demographic is people aged 30 years or older, but the second highest are children under the age of 18.
A report by the West Midlands Police showed that out of the 2,043 knife related incidents in 2022, 683 were carried out by people over the age of 30 whilst 635 were carried out by people aged 18 and under.
After being told that the second highest age for committing knife crimes is 18 and younger, local father Chris, who was out with his 13-year-old daughter Brooke, said: “Look at her; she’s 13 and her friends carry knives, you can’t deny it, it’s because of the time that we’re in.”
Brooke responded saying: “I think they carry the knives because they are scared”. This view was shared by Cassiann who said: “I think people carry them around to protect themselves and sometimes commit crimes they don’t mean to commit.”
Deterring the youth
Currently carrying a knife can lead to a maximum sentence of four years’ imprisonment which can be reduced if the suspect is under 18 years old or ‘lacks maturity’. This is perceived by many locals as not enough to act as a deterrent for the younger generations. As Mohammed said: “It needs to be ten years plus, that’s a proper deterrent there.”
Chris thought the same. He said: “The sentence is pathetic and kids nowadays don’t have no respect (sic) for anyone”.
With the law not being enough to deter people from knives, it’s important that young people are taught about knife crime and the punishments that come with it, either in school or at home.
Some believe that schools are not doing enough against knife crime. Birmingham College student Jack said: “I feel like people need to talk about it more, especially in schools when these kids are being raised.”
On the other hand, some seem to believe that teachers are not the best people to deter young people from knife crime in the West Midlands. Samuel said: “I don’t think it’s just up to the schools, I think it’s up to the parents. When you’re bad, you don’t like school, so even if they plaster it all over the school, they’re not going to listen.”
It seems then that the main issue is getting through to children, regardless of who is in control of the conversation, so coming up with a basic guideline for that important talk is essential.
Life or knife
With this in mind, the West Midlands Police launched a campaign called ‘Life or Knife’, a website aimed at guiding parents, guardians and teachers through that difficult discussion with their children.
The police have also placed anonymous weapon surrender bins across the city centre and the West Midlands in general, in an attempt to persuade younger suspects to have second thoughts about their decisions and give up their knives without any consequences.
Tay seems to think the bins are not the way forward though, as it would be better to cut the influx of knives from the source: “Anyone can get whatever they want in this world so the police need to be more aware that you can get knives from anywhere.”
Breaking down the supply of knives is one of the many steps towards solving the rise in knife crime incidents and ultimately bringing the number of incidents back down, whilst bringing back the feeling of safety for the residents of the West Midlands.
Lowering the number of incidents will also mean that fewer children will get hurt in the future, showing the importance of getting on top of this escalation. As Tay said: “More needs to be done with knife crime because young people are dying in the streets and it’s not fair; some of these people are not even reaching 17 or 18.”