Shutting Down Youth Centres is Not the Root of London's Crime Epidemic
2018 is on track to being one of London’s bloodiest years in recent memory. The chapter of moped crime; the growth in the use of acid as a weapon of choice, and the prominence of gun and knife crime on the outskirts of the city have sent shivers around the Big Smoke. London’s violent crime issue has other roots besides a lack of youth centres - we seem to be forgetting the importance of teaching people the value of personal responsibility , and we cannot expect an impoverished police force to deal with this.
Nobody can agree on whom to blame, but it is absurd that anybody could suggest, in utter seriousness, that closing a local youth club would be reason enough for a boy to stab someone to death with a meat cleaver. It is time to do away with this myth that murderers seek solace in youth centres. They never did, and they never will. A weekly youth centre activity night bears absolutely no significance for the career path a young person takes. It is ludicrous to claim that an evening of circle-time and parlour games is anything more than a literal, government-funded waste of time- seldom teaching anything about civility or prospect-let alone, being an effective preventative measure against the induction of young people into a life of violence and crime.
The argument also possesses a strange, perhaps unintentional, inconsistency. The closing of youth services has supposedly set the conditions for an increase in gang crime in deprived areas. In this case, people are happy to blame London’s drastic lack of football pitches. As it happens, sexual assault and rape are also forms of violent crime, are also on the rise, and are also (reportedly) correlated with lower household income; but we would not for one moment flirt with the idea of blaming its rise on the closure of London’s youth services, or even anything else unrelated to the personal responsibility of the perpetrator. We would look to influence subcultures and rid ourselves of other plagues: sexism, patriarchy and toxic masculinity. This approach is rational; it encourages a group in society to take responsibility of the way it conducts itself, and it maintains that the perpetrators of crime and the culture they encourage are to blame for the crimes they commit. We cannot hesitate to criticize a subculture, even if it is the culture of a minority or working-class group - ultimately, progress is for their betterment, too.
It wouldn’t be reasonable to suggest this spike in crime is purely cultural; there have been limitations placed on our own police force by the government. The party which prides itself on having such a good record on crime, has more or less failed. How can an understaffed police force which doesn’t even have permission to chase armed moped riders (so long as they remove their crash helmets) control criminals in one of Europe’s most turbulent mega-cities ? Figures from the BBC reveal that there are 14% fewer police officers in England and Wales now, than there were in 2010. I have been unfortunate enough to have been at the scene of two moped-enabled thefts this year alone, and both saw promises of police action unfulfilled. A staff increase could be the difference between one crime, and twelve, or a life and a death. The police force does a terrific job, and it remains imperative to not undermine its effort or achievement, but the powers that be which administer it have either no regard for working-class life or too much regard for nothing in particular. The most staunch of Conservatives could just about acknowledge that if people were routinely being shot outside Kensington and not Kingsbury, action would be taken far more quickly.
Even with a multitude of armed police officers in the service, London’s crime would not cease to exist. A change in responsibility remains the most important goal to score for London’s working-class youth. Why are we stuck in the ways of telling ourselves that criminals should rely on the public to tend to their private issues? We would not blame poverty for sexual crime, and it can be no excuse for violent crime. There needs to be a change in mentality, and whilst we should acknowledge that a there is a strong correlation between the underfunding of the police force and crime, youth centres are the last beacons of hope for a struggling generation.