In our latest blog post the Youth Voice Journal would like to explore and write about the idea of a public health approach to youth crime and how this solution could be crucial in halting London’s knife crime epidemic which has escalated to new levels in 2018. A public health model contends crime should be viewed as an infectious disease which can then be altered by challenging and changing the behavioural norms of those affected by it. In essence treating crime as a public health matter means society must address the underlying issues of social exclusion, poverty, unemployment and poor housing which resulted in a victim being stabbed. Such an approach undoubtedly requires a holistic intervention with multi-agency work among the police, housing officers, medical professionals and teachers all working together to help young people affected by crime. In fact this public health approach to crime and particular youth crime has been successfully implemented and used in both Glasgow and Chicago; two cities labelled as the murder and violent capitals of the world. In both these cities, officials have focused on helping victims and young people associated with gangs in finding employment, housing and diffusing tensions among rival gangs. In working alongside youth workers and former prisoners, officials have managed to gain access to at risk youth and build relationships in order to address the issues affecting these young people. Thus as a result of addressing the immediate needs of young people both cities and particularly Glasgow have experienced a dramatic decrease in the youth crime rate.
The city of London in the face of increasing knife crime has showcased small steps in starting to implement a public health approach to knife crime. For example the Charity Redthread has deployed a unit of youth workers at Kings College hospital in south London dedicated to working with young victims of knife crime admitted to the hospital for treatment. The youth workers work with young people in the aftermath of a violent attack to ensure their needs are meant and offer long term support with housing, employment and making sure the victims do not seek revenge. The work of Redthread showcases a public health approach to knife crime can be implemented within the city of London and also possibly succeed. Despite this the city of London still has work to do in adopting this intervention model in all 32 boroughs and ensuring funding streams are available to organisations dedicated to tackling youth crime. Using stiffer sentences and being tough on crime in London had repeatedly failed in tackling youth crime or reducing the knife crime subsequently adopting a public health model to this issue provides a viable alternative which has successfully worked in other cities.