Headlines: June 10th, 2009

A new study has found little evidence that police-led interventions to stop young people carrying knives work. The research from the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies at King’s College London concludes that a zero tolerance’ approach to weapons does not cut crime or change attitudes.

The report, ‘Young people, knives and guns’ also casts doubt on the effectiveness of stop and search tactics and says that on their own police actions are unlikely to have a major impact on the carrying of knives. Today’s report follows a comprehensive review of gun and knife crime strategies and finds that a zero tolerance approach to weapon possession “is ineffective in reducing crime or changing attitudes’ among young people.

The researchers examined evidence from the United States and a number of other countries as well as from the UK. Lead researcher Arianna Silvestri said: “We were struck again and again during our research by how weak is the evidence base for current, police-led interventions for tackling gun and knife violence involving young people. Our research does not prove that such police-led interventions do not work. But there is no sound basis for believing that they have any long term impact.”

The report suggests a focus on the weapons themselves, rather than the underlying causes of violence, can be a distraction. Gun and knife crime, it says, need to be viewed in context, as expressions of wider youth disaffection and violence. Dr Roger Grimshaw, research director at the Centre, said: “If the long term future of areas and neighbourhoods continues to create the conditions for the repetitive social exclusion of successive youth cohorts, then a core responsibility lies squarely on the shoulders of policymakers.”