Talking Point: Power of emotion

Written by on 28 May 2014

Carrying a knife ruins your life and your family’s life. That is the message the next phase of government-backed initiative, No Knives, Better Lives (NKBL), will look to embrace.

Details were revealed at an event in Glasgow earlier this month to launch NKBL on a national platform. Piloted in Inverclyde in 2009, the project – which uses work in schools and youth schemes to discourage knife carrying – was soon extended to ten other local authorities before nationwide expansion.

Research informing the latest marketing push turned up findings that were to be expected. Legal penalties are not a convincing deterrent. The maximum sentence for carrying a knife in Scotland is to rise from four to five years under the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill.

Constantly increasing maximum penalties will not by itself solve the problem of knife possession, though. The Cabinet Secretary has clearly acknowledged this. Why? Because young people continue to carry out of fear that someone will get to them first. They are not looking to stab someone. They are looking to avoid being stabbed themselves. Uncertainty breeds fear.

However, there is, as civil servants found devising this new segment of the campaign, a greater fear. That of what impact wielding a knife will have on those whom young people hold closest. A new video, which I understand is likely to be released next month via social media channels and on DVD for local partners, will feature the tagline, ‘You Don’t Just Stab the Victim’. The film was shot not with actors but kids living in parts of Glasgow most plagued by knife crime.

In it, viewers will see 16-year-old Mark preparing to go out for the night when he discovers a former friend will also be in the vicinity. Fearing a run-in, he grabs a knife from the kitchen and says goodbye to his family. A fight breaks out and the knife is used. Those watching, however, do not simply see the incident unfold. They see the emotional ripple effect as family members he left behind earlier that night each suffers a similar wound. ‘Pick up a knife and who knows how many lives you’ll ruin’ the final screen is expected to say.

It holds the potential to be a rather powerful message. After all, the 16-year-old who carries a knife is still a young person with the same fears and concerns that any 16-year-old would have. An extra year tagged on to a prison sentence does not necessarily recognise that. This fresh approach does.

Whether it will mark a new successful chapter in the fight against knife crime is still to be seen. But surely it presents a step in the right direction.

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