The million-dollar question is why do young people turn to gangs and crime instead of academia or resourceful endeavours. Does the system have a part; is it bad influence within the society, is it as a result of insecurity or is the illusive and imaginary world that they are living in?
These questions need urgent answers and they should come from across the board; government, society, parents and families, big brothers and influential people within communities, the school system and sporting/ recreational facilities. Stabbing incidents
and crimes have severed while solutions not forthcoming as expected.
Knife crime started to draw media attention over a decade ago and has since been on the increase. Most victims are teenagers and young people living in designated areas identified as hotspots for violent crimes and gangs.
It could be argued that there is poverty and marginalisation with very limited choices and opportunities in some of these neighbourhood, a great number of these young people, however, actively engage themselves in search for opportunities and connections within and outside their areas; some even go in to volunteering and end up securing jobs within those organisations or companies while some hold up to creative apprenticeship. Such actions expose them to more diverse attitudes and cultures, understandings and beliefs.
The few who choose to join gangs are also young people from the same areas and share similar backgrounds. Despite the challenges that they are exposed to in their communities, they become so embroiled in gangs, violence and crime that they
circumference within where they live and their knowledge of other areas would be limited. In areas where employment is scarce and labour is poorly paid; and opportunities for higher education minimal, young people idolise older peers earning money through crime such as theft and drug trafficking and selling.
Influential older peers will start to coax them into their networks of businesses in illegal peddling of illicit substances which will start to change their ways of living in terms of material and cash possession.
To some, this is industrious and helps to pay their bills and would give them higher social status whilst to others it is a catalyst for gangs and crimes. This will change their perception and qualifies such ventures as a normal way of living as opposed to the decent standards. In becoming vanguards of their areas, they develop antagonistic views against other communities which eventually lead to post code or territorial hegemony and violence. Asa result, their networks of friends continue to be sectionalised and fettered.
Even though the rise in Knife crime has also been vaguely attributed to the aggressive style of music young people are exposed to, and less engagement of police within communities known for such acts, it could be argued that in other to impose an “all-out war” on tackling this menace, attention should not be diverted from these things.
Knife crime should not be treated only as social issues but also as public and political issues. Engaging with the police, local councils, health, education and social work professionals can make a huge impact on the young people provided that their plight is considered and a bright and fruitful future begins to loom from the horizon.
The media portrays gangs as groups of criminals void of empathy and respect, as opposed to young people looking for means to make ends meet. As a result, broader social issues are overlooked reports instead focus on factors such as a troubled home life or behavioural problems as the main causes of criminal behaviour.
This highlighted factors continue to marginalise those communities further and stereotyping and stigma become the norm.
The media should engage the youths and foster a relative atmosphere wherein positive and meaningful discourses would be triggered to avail them the opportunity to come up with balance and objective remedial analyses. The media should also practice within the spheres of social responsibility and take a leading role in helping find a solution to these problems facing the youths. Treating young people like criminals and not giving them a platform or chance to speak up, makes matters worse and rehabilitation unattainable.
There should be a thorough research which will focus on addressing the consequences of stabbings for victims and perpetrators and their families.
Rehabilitation schemes led by professionals and influential exemplars should be common and easily accessible by both victims and perpetrators; which will seek to support young people in forging ahead and building up careers and generate better opportunities for their future.
By Pa Modou Faal