First-hand experience from others that understand

Is drill music to blame?

Google drill music and within the top few results are articles suggesting it is to blame for youth violence in some capacity. There are arguments to both support and refute this suggestion. However less debatable is that this rhetoric of ‘rap music’ being the causation of violence is one that has long been in existence. The point of interest being that rather than addressing issues which lead to both individuals and groups feeling the need to express themselves in words, some argue to be inflammatory and hateful, there are calls to just opress this form of expression. Were drill music to be completely stopped would there be a significant decrease in the youth violence currently plaguing the city?

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#5 Let’s Talk Youth Violence – Violence and the Media



With serious crime rates up significantly in comparison to last year, it is to be expected that the issue of violence is being scrutinised more heavily in the media.

So far in 2018, the Met has launched over 60 murder investigations, equating to roughly three murders a week. The media are currently reporting on each fatality, meaning that the overall exposure for the problem of violent crime in the capital is vast.

Whilst it is of course extremely important to bring the public’s attention to this epidemic, the question renders as to whether the way that it is being reported on is constructive. A mechanism used regularly by the media, and not just exclusively in covering violence, is sensationalist headlines. An example of this is when The Express and The Times featured the phrase ‘summer of carnage’ among the title of recent articles, quoting a surgeon working in an East London hospital. These kind of headlines serve to create an atmosphere of fear and hostility, leaving communities feeling unsafe and panicked. As well as this, creating a sense of hysteria is not productive in identifying and addressing high crime rates. 

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It is also interesting to consider why the coverage around violence is so heavy this year compared to last year. It is true that the rates have increased significantly, however 117 people are still reported to have lost their lives in 2017 to violence in the capital, yet it was an issue that was seemingly featured in the press only intermittently. This lack of awareness last year resulted in the media frequently misquoting how many people had been murdered.

An exception to this rule would be The Guardian, which has always been a strong campaigner on combating violence. In a series called ‘Beyond the Blade’, the newspaper was the only title to keep a list of names of all the young people that lost their lives at the hands of violence in London in 2017.

I have, however, seen multiple news sources, for example Sky News, the Sun, and the BBC publish lists of all the murder victims in London in 2018 so far. What kind of message does this present? It could be interpreted that the media are not invested for long term in raising awareness for violence, and it is only when crime rates see an increase, that the victims become important.

An interesting article published by the Independent in April looks at the use of the word ‘gang’, and the impact that this has subconsciously on public empathy for violence. It infers that these murder victims are ‘gangsters’, and therefore immediately allows an individual to distance themselves from them, and possibly even look down on them.

The fact is that public opinions are partly or largely formed by what society digests from the media. If the media are broadly presenting the victims of violence as criminals either consciously or sub-consciously, it is likely that society will never truly care about preventing and tackling violence – and the issue will only perpetuate.


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If certain news sources create a sense of hysteria around the issue, this will have an affect on public perception, and possibly put up a barrier for greater understanding and progress being made on what the contributors are and what can be done to inhibit them. It must be acknowledged that exposure from the media can be and has been extremely valuable in bringing the issue of violence into public consciousness, and putting pressure on the government and the mayor to take action in regards to serious crime. It is, however, an extremely complex issue with lives involved and at stake, and therefore the way that it is portrayed in the media needs to respect this – and not be reductive and sensationalist.

With various government strategies underway, hopefully we will see violent crime rates go down. However at this point it will be important that the issue of violence does not completely slip from the agenda, as ultimately the message needs to be that every life matters.



#4 Let’s Talk Youth Violence – Are Drugs to Blame?


The government’s ‘Serious Violence Strategy’, unveiled earlier this month, serves to identify and address the factors that it believes are contributing to the rapidly rising violent crime rate across the UK. A key theme that is explored, and indeed has been hitting headlines recently, is the impact of the illegal drug market.
It is interesting to note, however, that according to government figures, the overall prevalence of drug use is relatively stable, but it is important shifts in the functions of the market that is driving violence. Worryingly, one of these key shifts is the increased involvement of children under 18 years old.
The document states that whilst there is no evidence that the use of class A drugs is going up, convictions against children aged 11-17 years old for possession and intent to supply has risen by 77% between 2012 and 2016. This means that children between the ages of 11-17 are three times more likely to get convicted for these types of crimes compared to adults.  This statistic draws a parallel to one published by the NHS, showing that teenagers and children were at least five times more likely to be stabbed than adults over the past four years. This increased propensity to supply drugs appears to have resulted in an increased propensity to violence – a correlation that, of course, makes sense. But why are more children involved in drug dealing now than they were five years ago?

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Well, the government and the press are attributing blame to the phenomenon of ‘country lines’. This is the practice of inner city drug dealing gangs supplying drugs (primarily crack cocaine and heroin) to nearby towns or villages. The National Crime Agency (NCA) has reported that is it common for the gangs to prey on vulnerable people, particularly children, to be used as “mules” to transport the drugs from the sellers to the buyers. It is particularly difficult to learn that they often select children that are missing, and/ or have physical or mental health issues. And these gangs, according to the Guardian, are extremely violent and aggressive, using severe threatening tactics to “keep the
children in line”.
In terms of how the gangs operate, the NCA identified the centrality of mobile communication. Their assessment showed that country line gangs make on average £3,000 per day from each phone line, and on the most prominent lines in excess of £5,000 per day. An area of focus for the government therefore is to try and identify and disable these mobile numbers as a disruption tactic. There is a complexity around tackling this issue, considering that the networks are so widespread. David Lammy, Tottenham MP, spoke out about this to the Evening Standard earlier this month, saying that “even though the war might be fought out on the streets of London, the market may well be hundreds of miles away”.

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In order to combat against this, the government is setting up a new National County Lines Co-ordination Centre (NCLCC) to help bring the law enforcement effort together. The rationale behind this is that better communication will empower efforts to identify who the leaders of the gangs are, and where they are based, so they can be shut down. Encouragingly, another big focus for the government is on safe guarding the children or people who are trapped in these gangs, and helping with recovery and rehabilitation. They are the victims in all of this, and therefore should
firmly be treated as such. Hopefully these government schemes will be successful in reducing the involvement of children in drug dealing, and in turn, that we start to see a reduction of children and teenagers suffering injuries and fatalities at the hands of violence across the UK.


#3 Let’s Talk Youth Violence – Stop and Search is NOT the answer


In September 2015, then Labour mayoral candidate, Sadiq Khan, was quoted in the Evening Standard as saying, “I’d do everything in my power to cut stop and search”, the reason for which being that he claimed that the “overuse” of the tactic can have “a dramatic effect on communities”, and can “undermine public confidence in our police”.

Almost two and a half years later in January 2018, the same newspaper ran a headline on the now Mayor’s plan to crackdown on violence, “Sadiq Khan reveals police will ‘significantly increase stop and search to tackle soaring knife crime”.

This shift in position from Khan comes in response to the dramatic rise in crime rates in the capital under his office, with more than 50 people fatally stabbed, shot or injured in 2018 so far. The Times uncovered last week that, for the first time in modern history, London’s murder rate in February and March overtook that of New York. This demonstrates that violence in the capital is truly at crisis point.
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It is a fact that, after the Met decreased the number of random stop and searches in 2012, violent crime rates soared. Khan appears to be taking advantage of this pattern by giving the police increased stop and search powers in the hope that crime rates will fall as a result. This approach, however, is far too simplistic, and it is incredibly frustrating that the debate around the effectiveness of stop and search is still going on.

Research carried out by the Home Office in 2008/09, published in the Guardian in May 2016, looked at the effect of mass stop and search on 26 London boroughs and on 9 different types of crime. Their analysis found “no statistically significant crime-reducing effect from the large increase in weapon searches”. This is not to say that “stop and search activity does not reduce crime”, however it does insinuate that an increasing efforts is not the answer.

The police may confiscate a knife, make an arrest, and stop a crime being committed at
that particular time. However as soon as that person returns back into the community, it is naive to think that they will not continue leading the life they did before, and resume the cycle of violence, without proper guidance.

As Khan himself acknowledged, stop and search can actually serve to negatively impact society, if conducted improperly, by creating a sense of hostility between the public and the police. That said, it is widely recognised that stop and search is a necessary and important tool employed to fight crime, but that it must be used correctly and effectively, and alongside other preventative measures that offer more long-term solutions. Stop and search alone, as the Home Office research suggests, is not going to solve the epidemic that is facing us today.

So what is the solution? Well, Glasgow is rightly used as the poster child for reducing violence within their city, and indeed across the whole of Scotland. A violence reduction unit (VRU) funded by the Scottish government was set up in 2005, following a study carried out prior that found that Scotland was the most dangerous country in the developed world.
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The police played a central role in the approach initially, with a rise in stop and search, harsher prison sentences for carrying knives, and asking likely offenders to voluntarily attend the sheriff’s court. It was this latter step that demonstrated how these likely offenders were often subject to abuse themselves, and were living in communities of crime and violence that they had little option of escaping.

At this point, the strategy of the operation changed, and violence started to be viewed as a public health issue. By working with the police alongside health, education and social work sectors, the government adopted a more holistic approach, and accepted that harsher sentences and tougher police actions will not solve the problem. The people most likely to become offenders need to feel valued among society, and that they have the support of getting a job, housing or education.

The successes of this approach have been significant. According to Scottish government figures published by Vice, the murder rate in Glasgow has declined by 60% over the past decade, and between 2011-2016, no person under the age of 20 was killed with a knife. Whilst there are recognised differences between Glasgow and London, this example should demonstrate that looking holistically and across different contributing factors is an effective approach when tackling and preventing violence.
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It is positive that the Met police chief, Cressida Dick, visited Glasgow in February to learn more about this approach, however there has been little indication that any real actions have come off the back of this meeting. Time is going by and almost every day now an attack or fatality is reported in the newspapers. It is now that the government needs to step in and address the proliferation of violence across the capital and the country. We need to distance ourselves from harsh stop and searches practices that are proven not to be effective, and work towards a more holistic, success-proven approach, that helps to prevent, as opposed to just punish, violence.



#2 Let’s Talk Youth Violence – London Needs You Alive Campaign


At the end of last year, Sadiq Khan launched his anti-knife crime campaign with a video aimed at spreading the message among young people, that ‘London Needs You Alive’. Four months later, the video has received a meagre 11,000 views on YouTube, equating to just 1.7% of the 655,000 teenagers living in London today. With the best of intentions, Khan’s campaign does not appear to have triggered the desired effect, and has received public backlash both across social media platforms and in the press. So why has this seemingly positive and inspirational campaign missed the mark?

On the surface, the video has the components of an impactful advert; a fast beat, an urban setting, young people laughing and smiling, and a catchy slogan. But it feels disingenuous and disconnected from its subject matter, and undermines the complexity and severity of youth violence in the capital. We do not want the Mayor’s campaign to feel the same as a brand trying to speak to young people, as this results in the subjugation of the issue. It is undeniable that the video is well produced, however, the question has to be whether it is really making any kind of significant impact in preventing knife crime.

The media strategy deployed similarly appears to subscribe to the formula adopted by many brands today. Unsurprisingly, this comprises of a campaign hash tag, a dedicated Instagram page, and a selection of influencers used to bolster credibility and reach amongst teenagers.

Whilst it is not uncommon for brands today to set up Instagram pages specifically to support campaigns, they rarely work effectively. They tend to start off relatively strong, with frequent posts and good quality content, however they start to wane in relevancy as the campaign lifetime goes on. The ‘LNYA’ page looks as though it has already have fallen victim to this pattern, with the last post uploaded nearly two months ago on the 30th January. In the knowledge that the campaign was due to receive six months’ paid support starting November, it appears as if this may have been cut off earlier than planned. The content itself lacks depth and inspiration, with half of the posts simply superimposing the campaign slogan on top of an image. With a limited following of only 1,300 people, the lack of impact that this campaign has had is obvious.


A hash tag can be an effective way to create traction for a message, yet the benefits are lost if few people decide to use it. Only around 170 Tweets have featured the slogan ‘London Needs You Alive’ since the start of the campaign in mid-November, with only around 40 mentions so far in 2018. Even Khan’s efforts to employ influencers appears to have backfired, with The Mayor of London’s office re-tweeting Tweets from Jessie J, John Boyega and Lethal Bizzle, only to find out that the Tweets were fake and therefore subsequently had to be taken down. This is, of course, an innocent mistake on behalf of the Mayor’s Office, however it just serves to fuel the fire of backlash that this campaign
has suffered.
Perhaps the most crucial mistake that was made is that the video solely focuses on why
you shouldn’t carry a knife. This angle feels far too simplistic, however, and even Khan himself alludes to this in his MOPAC report, through the admission that young people are aware of the implications of carrying a knife, yet choose to do it anyway. The focus should therefore be on educating around why young people do carry knives, and informing the capital on what can be and is being done to prevent this. You can even take this one step further, and argue that the issue actually has nothing to do with knives, and that it is a symptom of young people feeling disenfranchised with
society, and losing hope of another way of life.

It is exactly the complexity of the issue, which provokes me to arrive at a conclusion that an advertising campaign was not a necessary arm to Khan’s combat strategy. In contrary to raising awareness, the campaign has received minimal exposure with largely negative feedback. The overarching sentiment that I have interpreted from social media, is that the campaign has actually served to distract from and discredit the work that Khan is doing ‘off camera’ to address knife crime. Upon reflection, I am left feeling that the money spent on the ‘London Needs You Alive’ advertising campaign could have been far better spent, on helping to fund a project that would have had meaningful impact on preventing and tackling the issue of knife crime amongst young people in our



#1 Let’s Talk Youth Violence – Social Media



Research carried out by the Guardian found that in 2017, 39 children and teenagers were killed by knife crime in England and Wales. This statistic becomes contextualised upon considering that last year was the second worst year for knife fatalities of this kind since the late 1970s. Disturbingly, 70% of all murders were committed by an individual or individual’s aged 20 or under, with 40% under the age of 16. Around 50% were black males living in London, and the majority of crimes were motivated by gang culture.

While the overall rise in crime rates in the UK is directly correlated with the government’s substantial cuts to police services budgets, there are other factors that should be considered, particularly when focusing on youth violence. It is a fact that a number of knife fatalities recorded last year were motivated in response to a taunt or threat on social media. This therefore suggests that the influence that online communication can have on facilitating and inciting violence amongst young people needs to be formally addressed.

Pressure has been mounting over the past few years for the most popular social networks to tighten regulations on the type of content that is created, and the way that it is distributed, across their respective platforms. If a vulnerable child is friends with and follows pages that post and share violent content, this will fairly quickly be all that fills their social feeds. The next consideration is that the typical dynamic of a social algorithm means that posts with the highest number of views and engagements, related to your preferences, are prioritised in an individual’s homepage or news feed. Upon considering that it is the most extreme content that drives the highest volume of social noise, the outcome of this mechanism becomes particularly sinister in the context of violence. The implications of this are that a young person, who may have only been on the periphery of gang culture, becomes rapidly immersed in this way of life through the consumption of highly aggressive content online. There is a plethora of content posted and shared daily; ranging from rival gangs threatening to attack each other; to groups filming themselves stabbing victims; to individuals gloating after having killed someone. Shockingly, some of these videos receive upwards of a million views, which implies that the individuals seen on camera hold a status and an influence that impressionable young people are aspiring towards. It is easy to see how this could provoke a teenager to mimic these actions and attitudes in an attempt to gain similar heights of notoriety. This serves to render the question as to how these posts are allowed to gain the traction they do across social platforms, and the solution for this needs to be more effectively addressed and implemented within the platforms themselves.

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The notion of not wanting to ‘lose face’ is synonymous with gang culture, and only becomes intensified when conflicts transfer online. Social media ensures that the audience to any given exchange, between rival gangs or individuals, could be increased by up to a hundred, or even a thousand, fold. With this larger audience, comes an exacerbated impulse to retaliate. Tragically, this has been the motivating factor behind a number of youth knife fatalities within the last year. This is also true in relation to all crimes amongst young people, demonstrated by the figures published by the HM Inspectorate of Probation at the end of last year, showing that in one in four cases examined, the young person’s social media was directly related to the offence they committed. A possible reason for this is that social media offers a level of confidence and defiance that young people would not otherwise possess. It is far easier for an individual to make a severe threat behind the supposed shield of a computer or phone, as opposed to standing face to face with your ‘rival’. It is when a virtual argument becomes a real-life tragedy that the lines between the two spheres become blurred, and the severity of the impact that one has on the other becomes irrefutable.


Unfortunately this is not an issue which is likely to subside, as social media becomes ever more intrinsic in young people’s lives. Surely the key words here, therefore, are education and regulation. Not just in allusion to the social platforms themselves, however arguably more importantly, in reference to the authority figures in young people’s lives that require the knowledge to be able to understand the mechanism of social media, and the authority to be able to regulate it. A young person has a personal log in to a social platform or messaging app and in most cases their parents, teachers and even the police, have little to no capacity to monitor their activity. This needs to be addressed formally by the government by putting pressure on social platforms to disrupt this lack of supervision, especially for young people under the age of 16, and to create programmes to educate figures of authority on ways of detecting and preventing this type of behaviour online. Social media is a complex labyrinth that is constantly evolving, and therefore there should be a destination that consolidates updates and advances that could be relevant to safeguarding our youth.

In considering the means through which social media can exacerbate and facilitate youth violence, the question arises as to whether a significant share of the 39 fatalities that took place last year, would still have occurred had it not been for social media. It may on the surface appear as if they wouldn’t have, when reflecting upon how a young boy stabbed and killed another young boy, all because of a comment he posted on Facebook. It must be acknowledged, however, that tragically most young people killed by knife crime are involved in gang culture in their day-to-day lives, both on and offline. Social media therefore is far more likely to exacerbate the problem as opposed to create it, however this does not mean that tackling the issue is still not of the gravest importance.

Through the exposure to graphic and violent content online, vulnerable young people are being sub-consciously taught to disregard the value of another person’s life. Social media is giving them the largely unsupervised means to express and escalate an aggression and anger that, on tragic occasion, ends in the loss of life. In order to combat the devastating affects of this, social platforms, governments and organisations alike, must come together to empower local communities, families and teachers to better understand this space, to more effectively prohibit the force of the violent catalyst that social media has the capacity to be.


Celebrity awards Presented At “Just Giving “Event

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On the 22nd November 2016, Tracey Ford CEO and Founder of “JAGS” Foundation along with Criminologist Researcher Emilia Gill attended the “Just Giving Awards Gala Event”.  Over 14.000 people were nominated to receive rewards, however, there could only be image1-3twenty-four  finalists .Those who made it to  the finals, each had a different charity focus. For example finalist Dean Ovel was nominated “Creative Fundraiser” of the year due to building a human size hamster wheel out of wood. Dean ran on the hamster wheel for 24 hours in public view, which raised just under  £8000 to support the Southend hospital charity “Dementia Appeal”.


Another fantastic finalist was four-year old Lyla who showed a selflessness wanting to donate clean water to children in developing  countries for her fifth birthday. Instead Lyla’s parents received donations which were forwarded to the charity “Water aid” instead of presents for Lyla.This raised a whooping £1.700.image4

There were also a celebrity nominations ,one being Henry Cavil Ambassador for the Royal Marines Charity and Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust. The nominated celebrity winner Jodie Kidd , was awarded by “JAGS” very own Tracey Ford. Jodie raised over £25.000 to support the “Help for Heroes” Charity by climbing 19.341 feet and cycling with wounded veterens.The money will go towards those veterans who suffer from depression and anxiety. Tracey reiterated “the evening was a great one with a beautiful dinner and stories told that could make you cry” .We can only imagine how good it felt to hand an award to such an amazing young woman.

Thank you “Just Giving” for inviting us to such a super event.

Blogged by:

Natasha Boatswain

JAGS Foundation Criminologist Researcher

A Great Celebration OF Life


On the 20th November 2016 “JAGS Foundation held their 2nd “A Celebration of life event”. The event marks the birthday of James Andre Godfrey Smartt- Ford who was a tragic victim of youth violence in 2007.The celebration of Life event also brings an awareness to the  community regarding the harsh reality such crimes has on local communities and familys. The host of the event Chris Preddie was himself awarded an OBE from the Queen for his outstanding contribution to youth work in 2012.



There were a number of  great artists in attendance, with many raffle prizes being given out. Singing artist Dayna Pearson along with Singer Zhane sang a number of songs that were well received by everyone. Natalie Twum -Barima was the spoken word guest along with Glitch. D Martian rapped regarding subculture and environment which was very enlightening to how the youth see today’s society.


It was a pleasure to have Yvette Edwards on board, author of “The Mother”. Yvette read from  pages of her book about a young boy who lost his life at 16 years old. The event was a celebration of Life  but also a reminder of the struggles communities continue to face in 2016.

CEO Tracey Ford thanked everyone for attending remembering her son Andre’s birthday and reiterating that he continually missed. The event was a huge  success and a reminder that if a community works together change can take place, ideas can be shared and things can get better.


Blog created by:

Natasha Boatswain

JAGS Foundation Criminology Researcher/Blogger


Sista Figure in Partnership with Healthwatch


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On the 28th October JAGS Foundation hosted Sister Figure, a day of workshops aimed to empower young women and talk about issues we face in contemporary society.

The event ran all day and started with a discussion about family and relationships, and the importance of having someone to talk to about problems. It then moved on to a poetry and spoken word workshop, with a key theme being ambition without limits.  Our Guest Speaker, the Truth Poet, led the workshop, starting with her own poem and then teaching the girls how to write themselves. She told her story of how poetry helped her escape trouble she found in her life, and how creativity can be a useful release of stress.


After lunch Jill from the NHS spoke, asking about access to health services and evaluating the girls recent experiences of NHS services.  We spoke about what could be improved and what was working, within schools and clinics.


After this Ebi spoke about the empowerment of young women, and not striving for celebritism, in the form of Kardashians, or other celebrities that young girls see as the perfect woman, when in reality it is more important to be comfortable in your own skin and to love yourself.

We would like to say a huge thank you from JAGS Foundation to Healthwatch and the NHS for funding the event, without their support we wouldn’t be able to run the day and inspire local young woman. Thank you also to all the girls that came!

Words by Emilia Gill – JAGS Researcher


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