Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Cressida Dick, the U.K.’s highest-ranking police officer, accused social media of being responsible for the country’s rising knife crime.
In late March, Dick told reporters from the Times of London that social media sites were responsible for normalizing the prospect of violence against children, leading to more of the country’s youths being involved in stabbings and murders.
According to Dick, social media plays a role in more rapidly “[revving]people up” in times of stress and that “there’s definitely something about the impact of social media in terms of people being able to go from slightly angry with each other to ‘fight’ very quickly,” a problem Dick attributed to popular media platforms such as YouTube.
Dick also noted that certain groups or gangs that post on social media outlets are contributing to a glamorization of violence. Fifteen-year-old Jermaine Goupall’s death last August in the midst of a feud between rival gangs posting mocking YouTube videos is a testament to such a growing fear. She further characterized the severity of the issue by comparing the speed at which young, seemingly innocent people can turn into violent criminals with the same fast pace that some Islamic extremists can become radicalized.
The accusation follows reports that fatal stabbings in England and Wales are at their highest levels since 2011. According to data from the home office, knife crime offenses in both England and Wales rose by about 21 percent in the year ending September 2017 compared to the preceding twelve months. Reported incidents number around 37,443 offences during the twelve-month period. So far in 2018, 29 people have been stabbed to death in the London area, and the police having launched ten murder investigations for different incidents since March 17—a 36-year-old woman’s murder on March 30 being the most recent.
The issue is one that has not surfaced only recently. Last year, Sarah Jones, the MP for Croydon Central, argued that social media was “fueling an escalation in the cycle of violence among young people.” In an effort to combat the issue, she pled for ministers to crack down on online material promoting knife crime, making a point to highlight platforms such as YouTube, Snapchat, and Instagram as particularly problematic websites.
The Metropolitan Police has responded swiftly to the situation. Dick has announced the creation of a new task force of 100 officers to tackle the knife crime epidemic in London, noting that, in order to maximize safety, stop and search is “likely to go on going up,” further confirming that officers “will be out on the streets more.” Meanwhile, the government itself has issued a £1.35 million ($1.9 million) series of adverts, featuring real-life stories of teenagers who have been victims of knife crime, to run across social media platforms in an effort to curb young adults from such dangers.