Tackle the causes of crime

Rebecca Roberts
Wednesday, 7 May 2008

It is encouraging that Boris Johnson acknowledges that the context for the problems of violence affecting young people in London is the 'huge social upheavals' of recent years. And as he also points out, the visible violence, 'fatal stabbings and shootings' that make the headlines are only a small portion of the violence that too many young people in London experience.

However, in much of the political and media hype about street violence in London, there is the implicit suggestion that young black men are responsible.

No one can dispute the importance of education and meaningful activities for young people. However, to present such policies in the context of crime reduction goals, targeted at ethnic minorities, is to be a wolf in sheep's clothing. It reinforces the notion that the cause and locus of the problem is poor parenting and inadequate role models within the black community. This diverts attention from bigger questions of what it is that causes the most serious, deadly and often ignored harms, deaths and injuries in London today.

Crime and disorder is a headline grabber and support winner, promising to encourage more positive coverage of the new London Mayor. In getting to grips with the 'problems' at the heart of our city, it would make sense to look to the causes and impacts of growing social and economic inequality, rather than assuming that 'competition, discipline and punishment' will improve the behaviour of young men and bring about radical improvements to London today.