Knife Crime Focus Group
On the 4th of July, we conducted a focus group which aimed to raise the various ideas and concerns the youth had in relation to the soaring levels of knife crime. The reasoning behind the focus group was to provide us with the foundation to carry out our anti-knife crime campaign. A number of agenda points were set to address and guide the thinking behind some of the youth members. The focus group consisted of a role play scene depicting possible scenarios which may arise in an altercation. It must also be noted that we were fortunate for Asima Sheikh, an Islington Councillor and proud advocate of youth empowerment to be present.
We began with an open discussion that firstly addressed whether there was an uptick in violence. This opening remark opened the floor for differing views in which some members of the youth highlighted their previous experiences. Some members of the youth stated that “yes” there was actually an uptick and that this was reflective in the frequent reports of knife crime which has raised fears amongst the young community of Islington. On the other hand, others expressed that the rise in reports now does not necessarily constitute to more violence but is a means instead to criticise violent “drill” music.
We then attempted to get the members of the youth to explore the possible reasons behind why someone may choose to carry a knife and whether it was justified. Some emphasised that some members of the youth have “enemies” or “opps” whom may attempt to attack them and so rightfully should be able to protect themselves. They also mentioned that carrying a knife makes them feel “powerful” and “bossy” but more importantly knowing they could protect themselves offered relief.
Others however indicated the issue of paranoia as firstly carrying a knife does not prevent you from being attacked but also, they would have to ensure not to get caught by the police. Furthermore, some also mentioned that “they are not that type of person” and that it’s not many members of the youth who carry knives.
We then diverged onto external influences such as the variety of social media platforms that are prominent amongst the youth today. Music was also emphasised as being instrumental in influencing the behaviour of some kids particularly when lyrics clearly encourage violent actions. The attendees did state that “drill music makes me feel upbeat and lively” but did not outline its harrowing effect. Social media on the other hand was defined as playing a part in the current rise in violent crime. This is due to the consistent back and forth taunting expressed by gang members in a musical format. The members of the youth have witnessed the impact social media has on reality and did not justify its use for those particular reasons.
The role play which was thoroughly enjoyed by the members of the youth as well as the councillor Asima Sheikh was acted out by Guled and Shafie. This role play demonstrated the possible outcomes when various types of behaviours are expressed in an altercation. Both actors highlighted that it was best to stay calm, avoid confrontation and value their life. The group later on emphasised that a lack of confidence equated to the violent behaviour expressed by the aggressor (Shafie) and that there are various ways to tackle this e.g. boxing, youth clubs, mentors etc to provide opportunities for those carrying knives a foundation to remedy their past and start afresh.
Finally, the group was encouraged to explore what would effectively help in tackling violent crime amongst the youth particularly in the borough of Islington. Amongst the answers were the provision of support, one member of the youth specifically stated that he is not empowered enough but instead is offered the bare minimum when some attempt to help him. Further answers included: a hub for the youth of the community (15-30 years of age) to spend time together as opposed to being outside and possibly attracting conflict. This hub was agreed on by most if not all the attendees as it is vital for a community to have a “home” to relieve themselves of the pressures they face daily.