NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

BRITAIN'S "KNIFE CULTURE"

June 2, 2006

In its latest and broadest attempt to get knives off the streets and especially out of the hands of young people, the British government announced a nationwide knife amnesty program, says USA Today. Police hope to collect 30,000 knives that will be turned in at police stations, churches, supermarkets and schools around the country.

  • Of the 839 homicides in England and Wales in the 12 months ending Nov. 28 -- the most recent period for which Home Office figures are available -- 29 percent involved sharp instruments including knives, blades and swords.
  • Firearms account for just 9 percent of murders in Britain. The murder rate in Britain is 15 per million people.
  • In contrast, the U.S. murder rate is 55 per million, according to the FBI. Of those, 70 percent of murders were committed with firearms; just 14 percent involved knives or cutting instruments.
  • In London alone, there were 12,589 knife-related crimes last year. Police say the people most likely to carry knives are males ages 15 to 18.

The House of Lords is considering a crime-reduction bill that would raise the minimum age to buy a knife from 16 to 18, give teachers the power to physically search students and mandate jail time for possessing a knife without cause. In the meantime, officials hope setting up collection bins across the country during the amnesty will raise awareness and help reduce knife attacks.

Norman Brennan, director of the Victims of Crime Trust, calls the amnesty program, "no more than a public relations exercise." The victims' rights advocacy group proposes tougher penalties, including a mandatory five-year prison sentence for anyone possessing a knife.

Source: César G. Soriano, "Amnesty Program Takes Aim at UK's 'Knife Culture,'" USA Today, May 31, 2006.

 

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