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Hoodies, knives and dark alleys - The representation of knife crime in the media

5th June 2018
by Emily Beever

Person in a grey hoodie. Hood up. Dark alley. Large blade. Can you imagine the scene?

This is the type of thing you might see if you are reading a news article about knife crime. A quick Google search will confirm that these articles are often accompanied by stock photos that look like this. Sounds quite scary, doesn’t it?

According to research, the two biggest reasons young people give for carrying knives is fear and protection, and fitting in with the 'norm'. We believe that in order to prevent knife crime, we must first tackle this fear and the creation of a culture of normalcy around knife carrying.

The No Knives, Better Lives approach is underpinned by the 4 Rs framework: responsibility, risks and consequences, resilience and reassurance. The latter is focused on reassuring young people that knife carrying is not common in Scotland, breaking the assumption that many other young people are carrying knives. By using this approach in our work, we can begin to reduce young people’s fears, as well as challenging norms and misconceptions which can negatively influence behaviour.

This year we are considering what else contributes to stoking fear in young people. Imagine a young person is reading a news story about their community with an image like the one described above (this is a likely scenario with almost all 12-15 year olds saying they are interested in the news). You can imagine they might feel compelled to carry a knife themselves if they perceive the threat as real.

These images send a strong message about who carries a knife and in what type of communities this happens, creating harmful stereotypes.

We want to break away from these norms so we are working in partnership with a variety of partners and journalists to improve responsible reporting on knife crime in Scotland.

Inspired by previous stock image projects like One Thousand Words and Get the Picture, we will produce a small collection of stock images to be used by the media to portray a less prejudiced view of knife carrying and knife crime.

Through this project we hope to:

  • Decrease the use of threatening images accompanying knife crime stories;
  • Develop better understanding and respect between generations;
  • Provide an opportunity for young people to express themselves through the media.

We are currently looking for a photographer to work with us on the project. You can find out more about what we’re looking for and how to apply here.

You can follow the project on Twitter @NKBLScotland.

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