Knife crime hysteria
In June 2006, knife
crime became the latest media-hyped panic. The UK press
reported an "epidemic" of stabbings. The official
crime figures showed something different: no rise in
knife killings in the last decade. In 1995 there were
243 murders with sharp instruments; in the year prior to the
2006 media hysteria there were 236. Over the last decade the
average weekly number of knife murders has been four and a
half. In the midst of the 2006 panic, there were no more than
four knife murders a week.
Neither politicians nor the media tried to reassure the
public with these facts. They instead fueled the usual hysteria-fest,
with political parties responding by competing to be "toughest"
on crime. In fact, overall crime continues to steadily decrease,
down 43% since 1995 (according to the authoritative British
Crime Survey), and is also falling in Europe.
Following the knife crime panic, Tony Blair held a crime
seminar in Downing Street. According to reports from dismayed
criminologists who attended (as relayed by the Guardian
columnist, Polly Toynbee), Blair "seemed to mix together
low-level antisocial behaviour with serious crime, terror
and other international crime into a single pot of alarm".
(Guardian, 9/6/06) http://www.guardian.co.uk/print/0,,329500440-103390,00.html