Column: London’s Dark Underbelly

By Ashutosh Mishra

London: Crime is on the rise in this city. While a drug cartel seems to be active knife crime has escalated. According to reports in a section of the media here this kind of crime has risen to a record high with more than 15,000 offences in a year being for the first time.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has been quoted as saying that cases of fatal stabbing in London had fallen by a third, to a total of 63 during the 12 months to the end of June this year but that was still more than in most years over the past decade.

Going by reports the 15,023 knife crime cases recorded during the year were the highest annual tally ever registered in the city. The figures include 79 attempted murders as well as the 63 homicides and 4,855 assaults using a blade. There were also 164 knife-point rapes or sexual assaults and 812 threats to kill using a blade.

Though one of the reasons for high knife crime figures could be stepped up policing resulting in more offenders being caught the statistics were, nonetheless, worrisome. The London statistics are part of a seven per cent rise in knife offences across England and Wales during the period, according to a report carried by a respectable newspaper.

Statistics for other types of crime in this capital city show a 13 per cent rise in vehicle crimes and a nine per cent increase in robberies. There were also 4 per cent more burglaries over the year. “Knife crime is a symptom of a much wider, complex problem. Too many young people are suffering a ‘poverty of hope’ and facing a future with no qualifications, no job prospects and no role models, making them vulnerable to criminal gangs who force them to deliver drugs and carry knives,” was one of the reactions to rise in this kind of a crime.

There is another kind of crime that seems to be on the rise in the city with ticket inspectors facing abuse and threats from fare dodgers. A newspaper report based on a documentary, says that fare-dodging is spreading like an epidemic. There are an estimated 65,000 daily fare dodgers on the bus network in the city while the Tube loses more than two lakh pounds a day in unpaid fares.

There are also appeals by parents to call a halt to knife crimes which appear to be a menace much bigger than fare dodging. Fuelled by increasing drug abuse this is posing a serious threat to London society. A newspaper has run a report about a grieving mother, whose son was stabbed to death, calling on parents to help prevent their children becoming victims of ‘ the evil epidemic’ of knife crime.

The woman, whose son was killed at the tender age of 17, was quoted as saying, “ knife crime should never be normal, it’s an evil epidemic. Everytime I open Facebook I see another boy has lost his life. Even sending your child to school or to the playground is horrifying in London.” There are many others in the city who share her concern.

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