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In their own words

Rod McKenzie Rod McKenzie | 12:45 UK time, Tuesday, 15 July 2008

BBC News programmes are often at their most brilliant and vivid when we hear real stories from our audiences.

Radio 1 logoNo debate on knife crime and the government's response to it could be complete without the voices of young Britons. They include millions of Radio 1 listeners - some with dramatic first hand experience.

A half-hour edition of Newsbeat put the subject under the microscope. Scott Breslin was 16 when he was stabbed in the neck in Glasgow. Paralysed - he can move his head. That's about it. He needs 24/7 care and his two attackers are already out of jail, after a small handful of years inside while Scott lives with his own life sentence. He told Newsbeat's Briar Burley his story: moving, shocking - and one that made some of our audience very angry.

From the streets - a different story: "I'll die for my friends - I'll kill for my friends" - one young blade carrier told us.

Reporter Tulip Mazumdar was in Polmont Young Offenders' Institution near Falkirk - where many of Scotland's knife criminals end up. Of course, knife crime in the Glasgow area is a serious, long running problem and one which is often under-reported by London-based media.

We also heard from New Yorker Mike Tanelli in the Bronx - he told our US reporter Sima Kotecha that he'd been "...shot, stabbed, and hit with baseball bats for nothing but just for fun". But that in tough areas like this the NYPD's policy of flooding tough areas with cops had cut crime...high visibility policing is appealing to many of those who got in touch with us.

One policeman texted to say they barely have the manpower or equipment to defend themselves let lone the public - he thinks Tasers could be the answer.

But is it all the media's fault?

Display of knivesThe stats suggest that knife crime in London is down and overall knife crime is more or less the same as it's always been. In many parts of Britain - especially rural areas - young people simply don't carry knives. But we also know the official stats are probably flawed: they under-report under 16s and hospital information may be incomplete. With the audience the stats clearly lack credibility.

Jonathan Blake in Liverpool found huge scepticism among people there about the government's latest measures. A huge volume of texts gripped in our political reporter Rajini Vaidyanathan's hands, she fired a question at the prime minister's press conference. "Our listeners think you are out of touch". He said he wanted our audience to know: "If you carry a knife our intention is that you are punished."

Our texts kept coming in: "My boyfriend was stabbed and killed two-and-a-half years ago. I just don't believe sentences are harsh enough and neither is prison." Many, many others from victims, and others from those explaining why they carry blades "to protect myself - if I get attacked I want to defend myself: it's kill or be killed".

Our audience responded in huge volume to our special programme with a range of ideas, anger and frustration.

There was a similar story on our sister station 1Xtra which mounted a special programme too, fronted by Mike Anthony of the Rampage crew, himself a recent stab victim.

A 15-year-old girl holds her boyfriend after he's stabbed to death by a gang of teenagers. He dies in her arms. His best friend dreamt that one of them would be killed - he wasn't sure who it would be. Making it to 17 is a surprise to him anyway as he feels the good die young - so he's prepared.

You may think that this is a plotline from a movie or play - it's not. It's a real life story. In our documentary Street Diary, produced by Nicola Asamoa, we heard from young people directly affected by crime. They included the best mate and girlfriend of 16-year-old Kodjo Yenga who was stabbed to death by a gang of teenagers in London last year.

We also heard from a former gang member who joined a gang because he didn't have any brothers or sisters to look out for him. Artists Bashy and Dizzee Rascal also gave us their take on life on the streets.

Our range of voices and experiences demonstrated to us that whatever the official stats, whatever the politicians or journalists may say, out on the real streets of some parts of Britain, knife crime is a terrifying and real part of peoples lives.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Rod,

    It is true that BBC Programmes are often more brilliant when we heard from the viewers and listeners of the BBC.

  • Comment number 2.

    This story of knife crime only became a London-media talking point when a White, "Celebrity" related underage for a pub kid was murdered at 2am.

    Says a lot about the state of the media.

  • Comment number 3.

    Knife crime has always been a serious issue as has all kinds of violence.

    Now however, the biggest dangers we are faced with are - War, Terrorism, and Living costs. These have all been caused by the decisions and actions of Government and Big Business.

    The biggest crimes come from the very top, and if the media gave as much attention to what goes on there as they do to `street crime`, maybe things would'nt be so bad.

    So Yes, to a big extent it is the media's fault.

  • Comment number 4.

    Giving people directly affected by any issue a voice is an excellent antidote to the political babble we hear from government spokesmen. Regarding the prevalence of knife crime and anti-social behaviour, most people would like to see a return of stronger stop and seach powers by the police; more police on the beat and also, much greater powers to teachers to discipline unruly pupils. Our society is falling apart.

  • Comment number 5.

    This story of knife crime only became a London-media talking point when a White, "Celebrity" related underage for a pub kid was murdered at 2am.

    -------------

    Utter nonsense. It has been all over the media for the past 12 months, that incident was what 8 weeks ago?

    The media is in a very difficult spot here. I live in South Wales and in many towns here no kids carried knives at all until these stabbings began being reported, now it is not uncommon to carry some sort of weapon. Whether it is the kids thinking it is 'cool' or they are actually scared enough to feel they need one, they werent carrying them before they read those stories.

    This is the problem, while reporting the incidents has lead to a national debate, heightened awareness and hopefully the will to do something about it, it has also spread the problem as well. As with any topic like this it has the potential to get worse before it gets better.

  • Comment number 6.

    I’ve no doubt that its good for people to express their opinions and share their life experiences. Nor that most young people abhor the inflicting of such pointless violence on others. (A small minority, particularly in gang culture, think the opposite of course, which is the problem.)

    Yet over the years there have been any number of forums where those affected by drug use have also expressed their opinions and shared their life experiences. Many youth groups have mounted educational campaigns and the like on the dangers of drug use and drug culture; yet we have a growing number of people addicted to heroin, crack and the like. So however the media report this issue I wonder what actual benefits come out of it?

    And while talking about media we really can’t ignore the effects of rap/hip-hop culture (music, video, magazines etc) and all its macho street tough posturing along with equally amoral video games (GFA etc), that for many without any secure values or positive role-models in their lives provide glamorous role-models and teaches that money, `respect`, disregard for the law and violence go hand in hand.

  • Comment number 7.

    Rod M.

    You say the statistics suggest that knife crime in London is down and overall is much as always.
    You add that we know the official statistics are probably flawed. You do not make clear whether the statistics have always been flawed or just at present when certain sections of the media are indulging in character assassination of the PM (a la Blair). It makes a difference – doesn't it?


  • Comment number 8.

    What is the percentage of these crimes committed by ethnic monority groups?

    Could this be linked to explaining why there is virtually no knife crime in rural areas?

    If you don't know the answers to these questions don't you think you should find out?

    A little honesty please.

  • Comment number 9.

    @ hackerjack

    "Utter nonsense. It has been all over the media for the past 12 months, that incident was what 8 weeks ago?"

    If its nonsense, why is knife crime, particuarly in the West of Scotland rarely reported on the National BBC news?

    Its only become an issue when London has had a fair few killings, and once the kid Kinsella was slain, has become a major talking point.

    London media is not interested in outside the M25 and only reports there because it has to.

  • Comment number 10.

    If its nonsense, why is knife crime, particuarly in the West of Scotland rarely reported on the National BBC news?

    Its only become an issue when London has had a fair few killings, and once the kid Kinsella was slain, has become a major talking point.

    London media is not interested in outside the M25 and only reports there because it has to.

    ----------

    These stabbings have been reported throughout 2007/2008 by The Mirror, The Sun, The Mail, News fo the World and consistently on the BBC/ITN news on TV and the web.

    If they have not been reporting them in Scotland then my apologies, I can only go by what I see and hear from South Wales and I have seen consistent reporting including front page headlines for around a year now.

  • Comment number 11.

    It really would be nice to imagine that journalists and presenters want to achieve change in our society as this article tries to suggest. Sadly the media thrive on these "stories" and "the brave adventures of journalists at the front line".

    Well excuse me for being cynical but just what HAS the BBC achieved in this area? Is the BBC a part of the problem because it is endowed with a middle class work force who are largely cushioned from anything other than the more sensational aspects of the issues?

    Almost everyone who lives or works in one of these "deprived" areas, where youth violence is a necessity for survival, rides their luck each and every day. These youths have less hope and less reason for optimism of a better future than ever before and it is only through drama that anyone ever seems to pay attention.

    This is the raw underbelly of the divided society we have all helped to create through greed, ignorance, and apathy. There is no first aid that can heal the wounds - it needs much more than that.

    We need to drive ignorance out of our ruling classes along with the notion that poverty pay is ever a way to run a meaningful and vibrant society. These people must feel that they belong, that we truly want them to belong to the bigger picture because we want them to play their part, warts and all.

    Crucially we need to understand when it is necessary to begin spirited inclusiveness and that means embracing the parents of these kids not with cheap housing and welfare handouts but with meaningful contributions to the society they are part of. I am sick of apologists for these feral youths because that is not the way forward. The way forward is to ensure that each and every person of working age has a reasonably paid job they can start when they are ready. When that happens we can seriously debate the problems presented by a very small minority of non-conformists.

  • Comment number 12.

    The media, especially the printed media, but the BBC is far from innocent, have demonised and criminalised all teenagers.

    The vast majority of teenagers in the country are honest, hard working, law abiding citizens. Many of whom are involved in positive things, such as campaigning and charity works

    The media is ONLY interested in bad news. It is ONLY interested in portraying a negative, violent and criminal society. It is ONLY interested in ratings and sales figures.

    As some one once sang “Leave them kids alone”.

 

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