Forecast: Knifey, with occasional showers of hysteria

Confronted with a massive wave of media coverage of knife crime, police initiated the "Tackling Knives Action Programme" (TKAP). Though you could say that when you are confronted with a knife that "tackling" it is a bad idea unless you are Yukio Mishima or Cassius, nonetheless police came forward with results: 55000 people searched, 2500 arrests made, 1600 knives found. Sounds impressive, eh wot? Until you read the numbers to indicate that of all the people searched there was no cause to arrest 95.45% of them, and that of those arrested each possessed, on average, less than two thirds of one knife. They could have achieved a better average by rifling through random kitchen drawers.

Meanwhile a person was convicted and labelled as the UK's "youngest terrorist" because when he was sixteen he was found to possess, erm, some pamphlets. And computer files. Expect the "youngest terrorist" to figure among the youngest people to complete a sentence as well.

Update: It looks like the "young terrorist" got twelve years for possessing reading material. Imagine the sentences that will be given to people who have actually done things.

Update2: My mistake (I blame BBC!), it was the person who actually recruited the group who got twelve years. Pamphlet boy will be sentenced in September. The charge on which he was convicted was one count of "making a record likely to be useful."


Owen said...

Well, erm, "a guide to making napalm", as one does, aged sixteen. Mind you, I was cutting back some weeds with a knife in the bed in front of our buildings on Friday and I did wonder to myself how legal I was.

Eric Gordy said...

One does get the feeling that they are trying their hardest to inflate the sense of threat. A parallel example from the US: in 2006 the Department of Justice announced the results of its prosecutions in the "war on terror." There were 261 convictions, with the average sentence less than a year (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/13581925/). This would seem to suggest that people are being charged with minor offences, and prosecutors are courting publicity by calling it terror.

Owen said...

Personally I don't feel there is anything like the same "threat awareness" here (in London at any rate) as there was during the IRA mainland bombings. Since the Forest Gate raid went so badly wrong the terror threat profile has been kept pretty low apart from blips with the big trial verdicts and the Glasgow and Haymarket bombings.

I don't feel as comfortable as you seem to be about the actual level of threat. I think we've been fortunate that the demography of the Islamist radicals has been different from the IRA bombings - they seem to be younger and less experienced, though that obviously will change. It may be easier for the police to pick people up at an earlier stage, hence the minor offence charges, though I take your point that these may just be individuals on the fringe, spun up to justify budgets, perhaps.

I'm not so sanguine about sixteen year olds either - some of the local pamphleteers are pretty bright kids and quite intense in the way they spout some pretty unpleasant stuff. Of course they're a small minority, but I've lived in al-Muhajairoun and successors' territory for quite a long time now and to me the current generation of adherents seem rather more clued up than their predecessors even though they appear to be younger.

Just personal impressions, and I certainly think that the wider Muslim community is a lot more organised in the way they respond to the activities of the extremists, so hopefully there may be less scope for recruitment of the young to violence.

I'm still amazed how little people have taken on board the radicalising effect here of the Major government's stance on Bosnia. Milosevic had a big hand in the Underground bombings. I wonder what he thought when he heard the news.

Eric Gordy said...

Well, I have no doubt that there are lots of people with bad ideas around. But I think you are right about the wider Muslim community, the community groups are not just letting this stuff happen.

It's a question of how to deal with people with bad ideas. This prosecution, finding publications and labelling the person a dangerous terrorist, is just not very impressive. They turned a social work case into a martyr. It seems as though the police and prosecutors are scraping the bottom of the barrel in order to feed the media.

That's a disturbing thought about Milosevic. I'll think of it next time I ride the tube, but my two local lines are going on strike.

Owen said...

I'm told the strike's off.