Its been a bloody few months in London and it seems we are in the midst of a new knife crime epidemic. The number of knife attacks rose sharply last year and that increase seems to be continuing this year with over 50 murders in London in just over the first three months of 2018. The sheer number of murders and attacks involving guns or knives over the last week has led to widespread media coverage which as prompted politicians to make all sorts of statements and rush out announcements of various ‘action plans’. As journalists, politicians and blokes in pubs all offer their solutions to the epidemic, there is one glaring elephant in the room that has seemingly been ignored: The breakdown of the family as the root cause of the problem.
We’ve Been Here Before
Back in 2008 the murder rate was at a similar level in London. There were 8 murders within a 1 mile radius of my home. The people involved, both victims and perpetrators were people of my own age – I grew up with these people and knew some of them to varying extents. One of the boys who was stabbed in his own home was in my year at primary school. One of the convicted murderers was in the year below me at secondary school. The situation was so out of control the police had to put dispersal orders in place and mounted police patrolled the streets to provide ‘reassurance’ to a nervous public. Eventually, the murder rate dropped, essentially because most the targets had been taken out and most the assailants had been rounded up and put in jail. The gangs had to re-group.There was one glaring thing that four of the perpetrators of the murders that happened near my home all shared in common that grabbed my attention the most: All four young men were from broken homes. All four men had fathers who had criminal records. As I read the almost weekly local newspaper reports of yet another fatal stabbing and the sobbing words of a distraught mother it was quite clear these mothers had absolutely no idea what their sons were involved with. It was quite clear these young lads’ fathers had failed them and they had turned to the gangs in a vain attempt to fill that gap in their lives left by an absent father and all with terribly tragic consequences.
New Generation of Killers
Once the police took direct and tough action back in 2008 the murder rate dropped. This is where the failures in the state institutions started: Because the murder rate dropped they assumed the problem was dealt with and so they took their foot off the pedal but they had never even scratched the surface of the root causes of the crime wave. They deemed it not necessary to do so, mainly because it just never crossed the minds of the rather feckless politicians and police chiefs and because the murder rate had dropped there was no longer any need for further action because the spotlight was off the issue.
Fast forward back to now and the murder rate is going back up again in a short space of time. There was a 15% increase in recorded crime last year in London alone with a much larger increase in the numbers of violent crimes and murders. But this rise was largely ignored and few batted an eyelid. Media coverage was fairly muted and any reports were gone a day later. Mayor of London Sadiq Khan published a ‘knife crime strategy’ in the latter weeks of 2017, but it contains mostly waffle and blame apportioning to other institutions rather than any real solutions.
We now have a new generation of lost young people who try to find their identity in a gang and who are now making up a new generation of killers. In 2008, most of the current crop of London’s ‘gangsters’ were in primary school – it was their older brothers and cousins that were being killed. The root causes were ignored then. Now its them being killed and the root causes are still being ignored.
At the heart of this latest spate of violent crime is post code wars. It is the stuff of the playground that most grow out of, but these folk clearly do not. There are links to and similarities with African tribal culture where life is cheapened and there is a lack of respect for life. Many of these young (mostly) boys live in loveless households. They have no father or their father has left the family home. They often feel rejected, unloved and in some cases unwanted. They go to the streets to find acceptance, to find protection and they think they find what they are looking for in the gangs. To an extent, it is perfectly natural for them to go towards the gangs – their parents and in particular fathers have failed them and so they want to find a substitute to fulfil the role of father in their lives. The tragedy is very quickly they find themselves involved in various crimes, often centring on drug dealing which in itself results in much of the violent crime we see on the streets. All of this plays into the theme of family breakdown as the root cause of the problem which results in so many young lives ended on the streets. If we dealt with the breakdown of families, we would simultaneously deal with most the gang issue in London and across the nation.
Politician’s Radio Silence
As if the current knife and gun crime epidemic wasn’t bad enough, most of the political elite have completely ignored the growing problem. Sadiq Khan’s vague ‘knife crime strategy’ amounts to lip service but his commitment to tackling the issue is limited given he supported the reduction of stop and search by the police that contributed to much of the reduction in violent crime after the 2008 spike. In recent days and weeks Mr Khan has seemed to spend much of his time blaming everyone else for the state of London rather than seeking to do what is within his power to do. The Home Secretary says police reductions have nothing to do with a rise in violent crime and in fact blame lies at the dorr of social media companies. Everyone, it seems is playing a blame game and they all have various strategies, schemes, initiatives and programmes to solve the crisis, but there is a complete lack of any real action. The Home Office published its new violent crime strategy on Sunday evening. It is designed to show the government is taking action. The problem is there was complete radio silence until the media frenzy commenced over the Easter weekend. If the government was serious about tackling this scourge on London then it would take time to actually form a plan. This latest ‘strategy’ has all the indication of being written on a laptop late at night by a special advisor under pressure to come up with something, anything that makes it look like the government is doing something to get on top of the problem. This is the problem with the political elite: They are so preoccupied with their own self importance they never take action on a problem until it risks damaging them personally and even then they only do what is needed to get a bit of positive press all proving they really have no real interest in solving the knife crime crisis. How long in advance, I wonder was the Home Secretary’s speech yesterday on violent crime planned? I would wager that if there had not been so many murders and attacks last week (which included six stabbings in the space of 90 minutes on Thursday evening) the Home Secretary would probably have not given any speech at all today. The whole thing stinks of a government scrambling to try and show it is doing something, a government desperate to deflect blame for the crime spike.
If we say having less police and funding cuts has led to the rise in crime (as Sadiq Khan claims), we accept there is a problem in the first place, for if there was no rising crime there would be no need for more police. If we claim that crime is only low when there are lots of Police then there is a deeper problem with criminally minded people in London that needs to be addressed. If we say the lack of youth funding and closure of youth centres has led to the increase in violent crime we are actually suggesting young people are killing each other just to fill the time and again we have to accept there is a deeper problem. Neither of these flimsy explanations consider the root causes of the problems.
There is a reason the political elite will not address the root cause of the problem and it is this: For them to accept the notion of a deeper social issue is to accept that their world-view is a sham. It is to accept that their assault on the family coupled with the celebration and embracing of single parent families as equally valid to the nuclear family together with the obsession with multiculturalism has caused much of the rot in society that results in young girls being shot dead on the streets and mothers watching over the dying bodies of their sons in trauma centres across the capital.
Elephant in the Room
The family unit is the foundation of society. Society operates naturally in a bottom up way rather than a top-down way where the most important institution of society is the family and there is no state by default. The state only exists by permission of society. Society is a collection of communities and a community is a collection of families. Thus the family is the keystone in society, it is the bedrock of society. Without the family, society doesn’t just crumble it doesn’t even exist. It is therefore imperative to support the family unit. Multiple studies have shown that children are served best when they have both a loving mother and father present in their lives and that the bond between mother and father is strongest when marriage ties them together. Our political elites, enabled by the commentators in liberal circles have been attacking the institution of the family for some years now. They do it because they want the state to be the key instrument in people’s lives. They want the population to be beholden to the state.
When the state is the central institution, all crime, all bad things are a failure of the state because it is the state that controls everything. The organs of state start to blame each other (as we have seen with the Mayor of London and the Home Secretary) because neither is particularly interested in any real and lasting solution. These same state operators automatically see the state as the solution. Ultimately, they know the solution is less state and more family, but they would have to relinquish power and so are unwilling to accept that family breakdown, (the very thing they encouraged) is the root cause of the problem. Family breakdown is the elephant in the room that the political elites wilfully ignore as they work out the latest ‘strategy’ or ‘task force’ to tackle the problem.
Whilst a smaller state interfering less and supporting families more would be welcome, there are things the state can do to help improve the present situation. There are plenty of laws against gun ownership and many recent laws have been passed to give custodial sentences to those caught with a knife, but because the state has abandoned post and these laws are not often enforced the assumption is more laws a re needed. The state has a role to play in enforcing justice and protecting the public. There are some immediate short term actions that should be taken to stem the flow of blood on the streets of London:
1. The re-introduction of mass, targeted stop and search – its a proven method that Theresa May and Sadiq Khan were wrong to try and cancel
2. The use of dispersal orders to stop groups of youths congregating to cause trouble
3. A zero tolerance approach to possession of guns and knives that results in mandatory and automatic custodial sentences for anyone found in possession of such weapons
These steps are not in themselves the full solutions and they will not end the scourge of gang violence in themselves, but they will help in the immediate and short term. In the longer term there must be a far greater focus on the family unit. The embracing and normalising of single parent families must be ended and we must return to supporting the nuclear family where children are brought up in a loving and stable environment where they have a mother and father to bring them up. Having done so much damage to the family over the last few decades, this will not be an easy process and will take far longer than a single election cycle, so not likely to be popular with the politicians because it means lots of work behind the scenes and less profile raising media appearances. However, if we are serious about tackling this issue we need to take a much longer term view. We need leaders who will lead rather than want to be celebrities and who are serious on ensuring we don’t lose another generation to gang violence.
Until we accept there is far more of a deeper problem than a lack of police or youth centres we will never root out youth violence, the murder rate will continue to climb and another generation will be needlessly lost to senseless violence.
The Church’s role
It is a tragedy that the church has hidden away in the comfort of its pews whilst the youth of London have been abandoned by broken families and ignored by the state. The church should be leading the way. It should be showing that there is a better path. It should be supporting families and looking after vulnerable people. It should be intervening in the gangs and reaching out to them by showing the love and hope of Jesus. The church should be praying for stronger families. It should be praying that those broken families will be stitched back together and that other families will be protected from falling apart.
Ultimately, the answer is Jesus. We can have as many initiatives and strategies we want. We can set up and state fund as many youth clubs we want and even double the number of police, but none of that will change the state of people’s hearts. We need to be praying that God will get a hold of these young people, that they will encounter the living God and will proclaim Jesus as their Lord and Saviour and in so doing have a life transforming change that will impact those around them and end this scourge of gun and knife attacks.
Let us pray the church will arise. Let us pray for God fearing political leaders and let us pray for an end to gang violence.