Progressively Speaking: How do we tackle rising knife crime?

Progressively Speaking: How do we tackle rising knife crime?

Nathan Godleman looks at the alarming rise in the number of stabbings and reaches for a progressive response

“Do not stand idly by the blood of your neighbour” (Leviticus 19:16) 

Whatever we think about the causes of the spate of knife crimes in recent weeks and months, one thing is clear: we need to engage.

We are not immune to it, wherever our homes and synagogues happen to be.

I have felt this closely over the past fortnight, with a near-fatal attack on the nephew of someone I know and the killing of the 17-year-old girl in the park where my brother’s own children play.

I had to phone my brother to see if my niece, who is the same age as the victim, was safe. What of the families where the answer to such a question has been ‘no’?

Knife crime is not isolated to any one community, neither in its perpetrators nor its victims.

To understand more, one could do worse than watch an interview with rapper and activist Akala, broadcast on Channel 4 on 5 March, for which a link can be found on the Facebook page of South London Liberal Synagogue.

Using statistics to help challenge the claims of politicians and headline writers, Akala quotes the case of Scotland where stabbings were once more frequent than anywhere else in the UK.

The key to a major reversal there was to treating the phenomenon as a public health issue.

In other words, a progressive approach worked: education, instead of draconian measures; diverting young people in a more productive direction at a point in their lives where they are particularly vulnerable.

“Why are young people killing each other with knives?” I was asked by my acquaintance, whose nephew, thankfully, is now on the road to recovery.

He could not understand how someone could do such a thing as stab someone, as it was so different from his own experience growing up (in Jamaica, as it happens).

We need to imbue young people with the same feeling, so the very thought of committing such an act is abhorrent.

And so that no more lives are taken, no more families left bereaved.

  •  Nathan Godleman is the rabbi of South London Liberal Synagogue in Streatham


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