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UK launches controversial campaign to combat knife crime

August 15, 2019

The British Home Office has launched a campaign to combat the UK's rising rates of knife crime using promotional material in fast-food shops. A backlash has ensued on social media amid suggestions of racial stereotyping.

Morley's fast food restaurant in Bellingham, UK, shown taped off following a fatal 2017 stabbing there
Morley’s is one of the fast-food chains taking part in the government drive to combat knife crimeImage: Imago/G. Falvey

The UK Home Office found itself in hot water on Wednesday when a marketing campaign to combat knife crime, using take-away chicken outlets, came under heavy criticism from political figures.

More than 321,000 boxes featuring the Home Office #knifefree campaign were distributed to over 210 chicken shops in England and Wales.

The insides of the cartons are printed with real-life stories of youths who have chosen to take part in pastimes, such as boxing or music, as opposed to possessing a knife.

Read more: Boris Johnson vows to 'come down hard on crime'

Policing Minister Kit Malthouse said: "These chicken boxes will bring home to thousands of young people the tragic consequences of carrying a knife and challenge the idea that it makes you safer."

Victims of Youth Violence

"The government is doing everything it can to tackle the senseless violence that is traumatizing communities and claiming too many young lives, including bolstering the police's ranks with 20,000 new police officers on our streets."

The campaign comes as it emerged that gangs are recruiting children to deal drugs by offering free food from chicken shops.

Charges of racial bias

However, the Home Office's scheme was met with a widespread criticism and accusations of racial profiling.

MP David Lammy tweeted: "Is this some kind of joke?! Why have you chosen chicken shops? What's next, #KnifeFree watermelons?"

Political activist Femi Oluwole tweeted in response: "Sweet mother of ****!"

Knife crime up significantly

The campaign comes in the wake of Prime Minister Boris Johnson calling for tougher sentencing for those carrying knives, as well as for "serious sexual and violent offenders."

According to data platform Statista, in 2018-19 the number of knife crime offences recorded in London reached almost 15,000, an increase of more than 5,000 compared with 2015-16.

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John Silk Editor and writer for English news, as well as the Culture and Asia Desks.@JSilk