The spate of murders, acid attacks and stabbing in London this year are shocking and incredibly sad. Our television screens and newspapers have been full of commentators and politicians calling for something to be done.
Calls have been for more police, more stop and search, longer sentences and even the introductions of curfews.
All these suggestions are reactive and whilst they may suppress the problem for a short while they ultimately self-defeating and too expensive to maintain. But even if they worked the most poignant question is, what type of society we want to create?
So today Home Secretary Amber Rudd is launching a strategy to tackle the issue which should be commended for its attempt to address the issue of prevention as well as cure.
An effective strategy needs a golden thread, however, a key issue which is the critical success factor.
The Home Secretary’s approach offers some positive solutions but it lacks a key understanding of the key issue to be addressed, the single and targeted aim which pulls everyone’s efforts into line.
To make a lasting impact the problem must be tackled at the root cause.
As savage as these people are behaving, they are still people, they are not aliens. Their behaviour can and must be understood even though it is totally reprehensible.
The key question is – What do people need to stop them behaving in this way?
A good point of reference in understanding human needs is, of course, Abraham Maslow.
Maslow studied human needs in the 1950’s and famously found that the 3 most important needs we all have are our physical needs such as food, shelter and water, then our security needs to feel safe and free of danger and our need to belong.
People need to belong.
If people don’t belong to ‘this’ then they will belong to ‘that’. Whatever this and that is.
In the case in point the ‘this’ is our society and the ‘that’ being a violent gang.
In other words, the problem is that people, especially young people don’t feel like they are part of society and they do feel like part of a gang. In the young person’s eyes, the gang is meeting their needs of offering them some sense of security and gives them a sense of belonging.
National Service offered young men common experience and a sense of belonging in the 1940’s and 1950’s and this government set up National Citizen Service (NCS) with the same aim.
At a time when youth services have had serious cuts, NCS costs a serious amount of money. If I was to measure its success I would ask Is it effective in helping all young people to gain a sense of belonging?
Other government initiatives around sport, families and even employability should have the same question asked of them.
Solving violent crime is far too complicated an issue for a resolution to be contained within a short blog but I offer policymakers three questions and recommendations.
It is amazing what people will do for something they feel like they belong to, religion, family, football club or gang. British society is not without its faults but it is a wonderful thing to be part of and a terrible experience to live here and feel like you are an outsider. The government will succeed when it ensures that everyone it does helps people to belong.