How social media is fueling London’s escalating wave of knife crime

"If they didn't record it, then he's only embarrassed between the people that saw it. But if he's recording it, then everyone sees it."
May 29, 2018, 5:45pm

As part of the escalating wave of knife crime gripping London, young people have started awarding themselves "points" for rival stabbings. And social media, specifically Snapchat, only catalyzes the violence, those on the frontlines told VICE News.

England and Wales experienced a 22 percent increase in knife crime last year. And so far in London this year, knives caused 42 out of the 67 murders. Many believe that cuts to youth services and police budgets have contributed to violence. But online arguments — and the mindset that accompanies them — also bleed into the real world to create a tit-for-tat system that left over 2,000 Londoners under the age of 25 experiencing knife violence last year.

"So if me and him had a fight, and he beats me up. They take our their phones, and they record it — if they didn't record it, then he's only embarrassed between the people that saw it," said Robyn Travis, who was first stabbed at 14-years-old in Hackney, London, in 1999. "But if he's recording it, then everyone sees it."

Travis was standing not far from his home when a group of children from an adjacent housing estate plunged a long blade deep into his stomach. The motive, he said, was retaliation for a fist fight.

"I was the first person in my area to get stabbed," Travis said. The event triggered cycle of violence that would leave him narrowly escaping death by stabbing five more times.

So far, London's mayor has pledged £45 million (almost $52 million) to try to stem the bloodshed by reintroducing funding for anti-violence initiatives and youth services hit hard by budget cuts. But Travis' experience has taught him that the root cause is the same now as it was then.

"At 14 you are meant to be thinking about what subjects you are going to choose for year ten," Travis said. "I wasn't doing that. I was planning how I was going to kill this boy and get away with it."

This segment originally aired May 22, 2018 on VICE News Tonight on HBO.