"But how can you live and have no story to tell?" Fyodor Dostoevsky
Us Brits love lording it over the Americans with talk about how safe our country is. Comparisons with the United States are routine dinner party talk, as we sanctimoniously assert our superiority. Well, that smug attitude doesn’t match up with the data. London, the nation's capital, has suffered 31 deaths from knife-crime so far this year. That exceeds the murder rate of New York City, and they have guns.
In 2017, 80 people died in knife attacks in the capital. Four on New Year's Eve alone. The vast majority of the victims and culprits are black youth. Following a wave of stabbings London Mayor Sadiq Khan, said he was "desperately saddened”. His empty words display an indifference.
Eight Londoners, all under 30, murdered in the six days between 14th and 20th March. That’s the only detail you’ll get from the British media. No mention of the fact that a gang war is underway between black youth across whole swaths of London. These soaring levels of knife-crime are a national scandal. Meanwhile, the hapless Commissioner of Police, Cassandra Dick, blames social media.
How that works is beyond me. You read a post on Facebook, WhatsApp or Instagram, then elect to thrust a knife into another human being. I'm missing something.
A few weeks ago Dick was muttering about knife-crime being a public health issue. She is clutching at any excuse. Constrained by her fear of the racist taunt, she has limited options at hand. Robust policing by enforcement action is beyond her. Shut in a self-imposed silo of inaction; she has foresworn traditional policing. Meanwhile, police policy is driven by a shameless political agenda ignores evident truths.
There are some who stand passive, allowing the death of young black men rather than support police action through stop and search. Why? Because enforcement action offends their sensitivities. And don’t come at me with the argument that the application of stop and search is racist or ineffective. That false narrative is another trope of the metropolitan elite.
Humans use information to make decisions, that then lead to actions. Since the Enlightenment, we have sought to set aside wrong ideas that are not supported or indicated by data. That's evolutions great gift to us. It is thus profoundly troubling that the dogma of a few invades public policy without any factual support. Their perverse and lopsided ideas result in dangerous consequences.
The accepted narrative is one of stop and searches applied in a discriminatory manner by racist cops. This version of events is untrue.
In 2000, Home Office researchers went out and counted the population stopped and searched. They discovered no racial bias. In fact, the police questioned more white people than other groups based on who was available. The police targeted specific areas with the highest levels of street crime.
Further research is 2004 (Waddington, Stenson & Don) affirmed the case. Other studies have shown similar findings. Granted, being on the receiving end of a stop can be an unpleasant experience. Nobody likes its. Tension is bound to result. But the data is robust on the point that blacks or other ethnic groups are not targeted.
Even Teresa May, as Home Secretary, couldn’t be honest fearing a backlash. In 2014 she asserted that the police’s use of stop and search was “unfair, especially to young black men”. In this instance, there is a suggestion that the Home Office deployed misleading data to support her false assertion.
I’ll grant you cause and effect is a tricky issue. Statistics are open to interpretation, while deterrent effects are always hard to quantify. But consider this, an increase in knife attacks since reduced stop and search. That’s surely indicative. Simply put, as stop and search have fallen off, crime escalates. Then there is the inescapable point that a knife in the stomach is not a data-point, but a person dying.
It’s hard to see how things can improve without robust policing. Let's consider the many benefits of that approach. It would show that the police are pro-active, serious about the issue and not resorting to ‘youth club’ solutions. That, in turn, pushes up public confidence by demonstrating crime is not tolerated. This activity will gather intelligence, which drives targeted-policing based on a rational approach. That’s what police forces used to do.
Believe me, it works. I’ve applied it to issues in Hong Kong, and the results were immediate. I hear you shouting that London is different. And yes, you are right, London is very different. Fear of accusations of racism shapes everything in London. But blood will continue to flow as long as misguided sentiments shape enforcement action. Rotherham and Telford taught us that much.
How would the metropolitan elite react if white middle-class Hampstead boys faced similar threats? They'd be screaming for action. I can only conclude certain things. It’s not the stop and search that concerns them, nor that black youth are dying. It's their credentials as life-members of the liberal classes. They need to maintain their emotional comfort over rationality. Plus their physical separation from the suffering communities makes them unworthy advocates.
Rather than confronting the issue in an honest manner, Commissioner Dick and her friends will continue to have their judgment clouded by an engrained PC culture. Young black men are the ultimate victims. Nothing will be done as these victims are seen as cannon fodder in the war of political correctness.
Post Script - As I write this news comes in of a 17-year-old girl killed and a 16-year-old boy in a critical condition after two separate incidents in London. The statistical trend point to 180 young people murdered in London by the end of 2018.
Walter De Havilland was one of the last of the colonial coppers. He served 35 years in the Royal Hong Kong Police and Hong Kong Police Force. He's long retired.