(Knife) Crime, Deviance, Media and Methods

“Knife Crime” as you’re probably aware, is increasingly in the news, particularly, but not exclusively, in London (because, quite frankly and a little rhetorically, is there anywhere else of any great significance in England?).

And while there are Definitely | Maybe | Probably (please delete as inapplicable) all kinds of reliability issues surrounding what counts as “knife crime” (and, indeed, how what counts can actually be counted) that you could explore if you were so inclined, a more pressing social (and, as it happens, sociological) problem is “Who’s responsible?”.

This, of course, is not an idle question and happily, if that’s the right word, both the social and the sociological problem meet around the notion of “gangs” (and “youth gangs” in particular).

However, before we start to develop some sort of hypothesis that might explain the relationship between “youth gangs” and the increase in serious knife crime (“knife crime with injury”) you might want to try this simple, single question, quiz on your students as a prelude to the serious stuff of explaining the data.

As befits my sociological inexactitude I’ve formulated the quantitative quiz in either of two ways (one open-ended, the other closed-ended):

And you call that a Staffie? Really? Sort it out!


Q1. In your own words, what percentage of “knife crime with injury” in London is committed by youth gangs?


Q1. In London, what percentage of “knife crime with injury” is committed by youth gangs?

1. 45%?
2. 4%?

If, like me, you opted for “45%” in the closed-ended quiz then


are completely in order and we can now move-on to the serious business of developing an hypothesis to plausibly explain this data through some sort of rigorous testing.

My current preference, which may prove controversial (if I’m lucky!) is to explore the idea of a market-driven approach to understanding the relationship between youth gangs and knife crime based on an ecological “pressure for market space” sub-hypothesis in which the drugs market is increasingly a “pressurised space” marked-out by a range of resistances, accommodations and aggressive responses. Or something.

Put simply (although the finished article won’t, of course, have this modest virtue!) there are too many disadvantaged youth now entering the drugs market and the competitive consumerism that is the inevitable result creates the pressure for the aggressive response that is “knife crime”.

At least, that was The Plan.

Until I read Keir Irwin-Rogers short-but-informative blog post.

After that. Not so much.

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