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What works in preventing offences involving weapons?
The main objective of the following essay is to discuss what works in preventing offences involving weapons by looking at various techniques used in crime prevention by different agencies. It will cover the four crime prevention techniques outlined by Tilley (2009); social; situational; criminal justice and individual approaches whilst also discussing what has been successful and what has not worked in the implementation of these techniques.
Offences involving weapons is any offence committed with the use of either a knife or other sharp instrument or a firearm including an imitation firearm and an air weapon (Office for National Statistics, 2017a). From the Office for National Statistics (2018b) it shows that between the years 2017 and 2018 there was 41,884 offences involving a knife or sharp instrument which is a 12% increase from the police recorded data the year before in contrast to a 5% decrease from the previous year in offences involving firearms as there was 6,362 recorded. In the year ending March 2017, Nottinghamshire saw 119 firearm offences of which the most common age category to be a victim was 20-24 (Office for National Statistics, 2017). However, you cannot just rely on police recorded data to see if there is a genuine increase in offences involving weapons. One reason for this is because the police may be recorded more incidences under this category than they were a few years ago as members of the public carrying weapons is becoming more common meaning the police are taking more crimes involving weapons a lot more seriously (BBC, 2018). This therefore shows that you can not always rely on police recorded data as the amount of crimes occurring may be at the same rate but the police are recorded more under that category making the public believe these incidents are happening a lot more.
Tilley (2009 p.3) proposed four crime prevention approaches and suggested there needed to be a theory for crime prevention as crime is ever-changing and complex. The four approaches are; criminal justice approach, individual approach, situational approach and the social approach. These can be used individually to prevent crime or a mixture of different techniques from each approach can be used to help prevent one particular crime.
Smith, MJ. And Clarke, RV. (2012) claim that situational crime prevention is a technique that focuses on changing what causes crime in the immediate environment in an aim to prevent crime from happening. Severin L. Sorensen (2017) stated that situational crime prevention is about “increasing risk and reducing reward” so that crime is not as appealing to the offenders and they are being punished rather than rewarded. He also states that target hardening needs to be in the crime hotspots and the places that are more vulnerable to crime. There are many different techniques that have been put into practice to prevent offences involving weapons occurring and some have been more successful than others.
One situational crime prevention to help prevent knife crime is the introduction of knife arches into public places. Knife arches are walk through metal detectors that sense if a person has metal on their body and alerts the people in charge, this means that if somebody is carrying a weapon on their persons, it will be detected and can be seized (Insight security, 2018). With the increase in offences involving weapons within the UK and the rise in people carrying knives, knife arches are seen to be being introduced into more public places, for example at school gates. With the majority of knife and gun crime offences being offenders aged 25 or under, the police have to target the places where these offenders will be and tackle them from the younger ages. More London schools are installing knife arches into their school gates to try and prevent children bringing weapons into school either to protect themselves or use against people (Dodd, V., 2017a). This can be effective in preventing offences involving weapons as they are changing the immediate environment in which children are taking the weapons to school and using them against each other. With the use of the knife arches it means they cannot get on the premises without being checked and their weapons being seized. However, there are critics that suggest knife arches are not effective in preventing offence involving weapons, instead they simply displace the possession of weapons to places that are not targeted. Superintendent Logan (cited in Dodd, V., 2017) states that having knife arches will mean the weapons are hidden outside of the school grounds and the crimes will be committed elsewhere – not many stabbings or shootings occur within schools so the police “need the intelligence to find the weapons” and put prevention in where the hotspots are.
Another situational crime prevention approach is restrictions on the sales of knives in shops on the high street. The government states that it is “illegal to sell a knife to anyone under 18, unless it has a folding blade 3 inches long or less” (Criminal Justice Act, 1988). This law means that it is restricting the sale of knives so the younger people cannot buy them and use them inappropriately. However, even though there is a restriction on sales in shops, there is no restrictions on sale over the internet, thus meaning children under the ages of 18 can order knives and get them delivered to their houses without being stopped. With the common age of offenders and victims involving weapons being under the age of 25 (Office of National Statistics, 2017), the government are currently proposing a new legislation to make it illegal for knives to be delivered to home addresses (Lipscombe, S., Brown, J. and Allen., G., 2018). However, a large amount of people believe the restrictions on purchasing offensive weapons in shops or online, does not work in preventing offences involving weapons. At the proposal of banning home delivery of knives, many critics stated that it will not affect knife crime as they are so accessible. This is due to the fact that there are many knives in every household, so even with restricting new knives going into circulation, these offenders are still able to get a hold of the weapons they need (The Offensive Weapons Bill 2017-19, 2018 p.23). In conclusion, restricting sales for knives does not work in preventing offences involving weapons, this is for the reason that if people cannot buy a knife they can easily find one in a household or find a substitute sharp weapon to cause damage to someone such as broken glass or a sharpened coin. Furthermore, as knives and other offensive weapons are easily accessible to commit crimes with, there needs to be concentration on helping likely offenders to not get into these lifestyles and educate them before they start offending.
Following on from the educational programmes to help prevent offences involving weapons. Nottinghamshire police found that they needed to change the environment people were living in to correspond these programmes. Target hardening and crime patterns theory were researched and found that they needed to increase CCTV performance and surveillance of the streets, as well as cleaning neighbourhoods for citizens to feel a sense of ownership and be proud of where they live (Nottinghamshire Police and Crime Commissioner, 2018 p.19). Changing the environment in this way will be effecting in preventing offences involving weapons as the residents will feel they belong in the community and want to look after it. They will also know that there is more surveillance so if they did commit crimes there is more chance of being caught, and prosecuted.
The individual approach to crime prevention introduces methods to different groups in society such as; the community, families, individuals and schools to help with situations that can lead to people committing crimes before they arise (Homel, R, and Thomsen, L., 2017 p.57). These groups can help prevent crime by youth programmes in the community to prevent them growing up and offending, educating students in school on the consequences of crime and introducing knife wands into schools as a regular practice. These particular methods can work in preventing crime as they are targeted at the age range who are most likely to be a victim or offender of offences involving weapons.
Researchers have found that in deprived neighbourhoods the type of violence is very different in comparison to other neighbourhoods as they are highly likely to involve guns (Anderson 1999, in Baumer, 2003 p43). Anderson (1999 p.44) also found that due to members of the community using guns and there being no formal control by police, many other people were carrying guns for the status and self-protection. In the disadvantaged neighbourhoods there needs to be education in schools alongside community groups to help children growing up in the areas stay away from following the gun trend and having their own protection. Programmes such as the Young Londoners Club and Stepping Stones programmes have been set up by the Mayor Of London, Sadiq Khan, (2018) to help at-risk of future offending children be educated and be given extra activities to be occupied outside of school rather than be on the streets in trouble. These programmes work in preventing young children from committing offences involving weapons and other crimes as it works with youth clubs and schools to give the children a safe place to be rather than on the streets surrounded by crime. In addition to this, the clubs can work in preventing offences involving weapons developing further in young children as it educates them and gives them necessary skills to achieve a job legitimately and turn away from what they have grown up in and around. Victoria Shaskan (2018), a director of a youth theatre involved in the Young Londoners Club, states that the clubs give the young children a safer place to go and the difference it makes in them just by encouraging them to take part in activities with other people and raising their confidence and valuable life skills. A benefit of these programmes being set up is that it is focussing on where the problem of offences involving weapons really starts, in younger children, how it starts, often through influence of the community, and targets these issues to socialise the children to grow up in a different mentality. It works in preventing offences involving weapons due to the fact that “year 7’s can see how the year 10’s are acting and how they are not involved in crime, then it would make them decide to follow the same path” (Whyte, S., 2018) this quote shows that’s people can act as role models when they are all from the same community and help to educate one another out of crime.
This individual approach to crime prevention works very well in preventing offences involving weapons, however, to work to it’s full potential it needs to be used alongside the other approaches such as the situational approaches, for example, restricting sale of guns and knives and knife arches in public places. These can work together and work better as they are given the youths and future offenders an education as to why they should not commit the crimes and how they can divert from that lifestyle whilst also changing their immediate environment and making it more difficult to lead that life.
Another method in preventing offences involving weapons is the National Knife Amnesty and more use of stop and search followed by harsher sentences if people are caught with weapons. These strategies are holistic approaches as they change the immediate environment in which people are committing the offences (situational crime prevention approach) whilst also using the criminal justice approach to crime prevention. The criminal justice crime prevention approach is about introducing consequences for criminals to prevent them from committing the crimes in the first place, such as, harsher sentences to criminals and reforming rehabilitation programmes so prisoners are reformed and educated before leaving prison to stop reoffending (Brantingham and and Faust, 1976 p.484). The National Knife Amnesty is set up by police forces throughout the country by putting bins in their stations for knives and weapons to be handed in anonymously for people to get rid of. In 2018, Nottinghamshire removed 418 knives off the streets during their amnesty from people handing them in, in a hope that it will decrease the amount of knives people are in possession of in public (West Bridgford Wire, 2018). However, there is evidence from a previous study, Operation Blade by Strathclyde Police in 1993, that there is no long term effects from these operations. This was shown as the amount of stabbings in there area decreased after the operation but slowly increased again to higher than it was before (Bleetman, A., Perry, C., Crawford, R. and Swann I., 1997 p.155). Other people also suggest that knife amnesty schemes do not work in preventing offences against crimes as it is “raising awareness of the issue, but it does not address the underlying causes of the problem” (Eades et al, 2007 pp.28). Due to these schemes not having a long term effect, the Home Secretary has stated he wants to expand the power of stop and search for officers due to the rise in violent crime (Bentham, M., 2018). Expanding the powers of stop and search could work in preventing offences involving weapons as it means that there is zero-tolerance and people carrying weapons to protect themselves can get stopped and caught at any point. However, researchers suggest that increasing these powers will not work in preventing offences involving weapons due to the amount of stop and searches the police carry out, they do not find enough weapons to correspond to that statistic showing it is not a successful method (Brookman, F. and Maguire, M., 2003 p.42). For these criminal justice approaches to be successful they need to work alongside the other approaches such as the educational programmes set up in London to help vulnerable children. These would work in preventing offences involving weapons as they are educating people on the consequences of carrying weapons in public either to protect themselves or use against others and also be aware that police are out on the streets searching people to get their weapons seized.
To conclude, there are many different preventative techniques that different agencies can use to prevent offences involving weapons. Situational crime prevention approaches such as defensible space, knife arches and restricting sales of knives are not working in preventing offences as they are so easily accessible and people can get others. Overall, the approaches need to all be used coinciding with each other so offenders are being educated by programmes in the community whilst their environment and the way the police are reacting to people in possession of knives is increased to be the most effective.
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