Every day, it seems, there are more victims. Shakilus Townsend, 16, stabbed to death by a masked gang. Ben Kinsella, also 16, fatally stabbed during an argument outside a pub. Victims in Bristol, Manchester and Glasgow. Four people fatally stabbed in London in one 24-hour period alone last week. In a country where few people have guns or access to them, a spate of knife attacks, many involving teenagers, has forced the issue to the top of the domestic agenda. The Metropolitan Police are so concerned, they said recently, they have made knife crime their top priority, along with terrorism. Government and law enforcement officials are scrambling to produce plans to allay public fears.
On Monday, Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced a series of measures that he said would make it “completely unacceptable to carry a knife.” The plan includes automatic prosecution for anyone over the age of 16 caught with a knife and doubling the maximum sentence for knife possession, to four years. It also sets up a $6 million advertising campaign to discourage young people from committing crimes with knives and a program to force perpetrators to confront their actions by, for instance, attending courses that describe what happens to stabbing victims.
I don’t want to insult our British allies, but, mates, any criminal class that can be wowed into submission by an advertising campaign is displaying a woeful lack of dedication to its craft. But, then again, that’s what the late, great comedian Bill Hicks told us long ago, isn’t it?