By Jonathan Reed
Video courtesy of Good Morning Britain, ITV©
One-hundred and eighteen. Say it, out loud. One-hundred and eighteen.
Its importance is not due to the age of the shipwreck recently uncovered by Hurricane Michael in Florida.
It is not due to the one-hundred and eighteen million followers on Beyoncé’s Instagram.
It is, both tragically and frustratingly, the number of people killed by knife attacks in London.
The total was reached following another five victims this week alone, two happening on the same day. And those critically injured or killed are young teenage boys, the youngest being fifteen. These numbers are shaming of a combative system that isn’t working. So, why exactly aren’t politicians or Sadiq Kahn, the Mayor of London, doing anything to fight the rise of violent crime?
When challenged we are fed the statistics, the lack of resources and money to place more Police officers on the streets, but these excuses have run dry.
The problem stems further than a lack of Police presence and delves deeper than the frightening numbers of lives lost this year alone. This unnecessary loss of life walks hand-in-hand with the desperately needed infrastructure in poorer areas of the UK.
The absence of Community Centres, youth programs and simply engaging with young teenagers is feeding into a sense of isolation that is being manipulated by violent gangs, leading to ‘turf wars’ and spiralling deaths. And whilst we could delve into the social problems that many believe are the root cause of this epidemic; it is the human grief, loss and fear that makes the reality of these crimes potently upsetting.
Behind each of these teenager’s deaths, is a family struck down with the crippling thunder of immense grief. Suddenly their worlds lose light and hope and instead are left with questions that lack meaningful answers. How could this happen? Why was it my loved one? And most infuriatingly why has my son become the one-hundred and nineteenth victim?
It is a deeply disturbing question to find yourself asking in a city that seems to be spiralling out of control when it comes to knife crime.
And, I’m sure in what will add to the frustration of the families in London, is there doesn’t seem to be a quick solution to the problem. To some, the reason for this is the lack of serious prioritising of the issue of violent knife crime.
One event that exposed this, was the recent Donald Trump Baby blimp that flew over the Houses of Parliament throughout the visit from the President of the United States this Summer. Many Londoners on all sides heavily criticised the city’s Mayor, Sadiq Kahn for seemingly prioritising the protest over the epidemic that was sweeping the capital.
But, in recent days the angered atmosphere around these attacks has reached a new level.
On the morning breakfast show, Good Morning Britain, host Susanna Reid passionately challenged the Mayor of London and the Home Secretary on their lack of action. She said: “My teenage boys are out at that time. It's only in the afternoon, not at night, there's someone out there with a knife.
Close to tears, she interjected: “Honestly I can't talk about it without getting upset."
She continued: “Someone out there with a knife who’s just murdered somebody, no arrests in that case.
"People are worried about speaking out about it because of the whole no grassing thing, snitches wear stitches, this ridiculous false code of honour which means people are petrified of speaking out. It's utterly shocking."
Reid’s emotional and passionate reaction was due to the murder of another teenage boy, aged 15 being mercilessly stabbed to death in the capital, taking the estimated number of deaths to 118. Many praised the journalist for her calls to action stating that she was speaking much needed truths to the Powers that be.
Her co-host, Piers Morgan too hit out at the Mayor asking him whether he actively took responsibility for the loss of life that was occurring on his watch, after accusing Sadiq Kahn of ‘passing the buck’ to central government.
Perhaps, it is this tone of the ‘blame game’ that perpetuates the lack of action in combating this major issue. Kahn blames the absence of sufficient funding from the government, though the majority of Londoners blame the Mayor.
Whoever is to blame, what cannot be ignored is the immense loss of life, to what many believe is a preventable crime. The warped mentality of silence that encompasses most of these crimes, hindering the Police in bringing those responsible to justice adds to the torment of the families involved and ensures the vicious circle keeps spinning.
And what is most frightening, adds digit after digit the running total of deaths.
Whilst the number, one hundred and eighteen is important, it is a tragic truth that the numbers that will most likely follow, will grow with not only importance, but urgency for action.