Says John: "The knives are a symptom of a bigger problem. There is a lot of anger and frustration among young people, a lot of them feel lost." That's why many experts claim that crackdowns aren't the answer. "There's no evidence that tougher sentences impact people's behavior," Newburn says.
Knife victim Ricardo Thompson, 24, agrees: "No one pays attention to that; they'll still" carry knives. Thompson was stabbed in the back at a South London nightclub five years ago during a melee that began as a fight over a girl. His wound wasn't too serious, requiring only a night's treatment at a hospital. But it was a sobering event for Thompson, who ultimately decided to refocus himself on his university studies and earn a degree in finance.
Thompson now works for his local council as a project officer helping a team that's educating young people on the dangers of knife crime. That's the right approach, Bellis says. "What works best is early intervention," particularly efforts to educate both parents and children on the futility of violence. It is, however, a long-term solution that won't quickly ease the youth-crime problem. Tragically, for many young Britons, the eventual payoff may come too late.