The War Against Street Weapons Review: Cherie Booth vs. Scary Youth

August 3, 2009 by  
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DISPATCHES – THE WAR AGAINST STREET WEAPONS: Monday 3rd August, Channel 4, 8pm Alert Me

After being berated for “relying on Big Brother� Channel 4 claws back its trailblazing reputation as they once again roll out a superb documentary.

Last year, prompted by the murder of 16-year-old Ben Kinsella, the channel launched a major campaign targeting street weapons. Cherie Blair chaired a commission that created an action plan to tackle gang crime on UK streets to put an end to the problem that claims so many young lives.

However, over the last year the problem has worsened with the number of violent crimes among teenagers continuing to rise. In this penetrating programme Blair goes to the front line to see why, and what preventative strategies are being adopted.

She speaks to the emergency services, the police, ex-offenders, youth workers, and in a revelatory interview, eventually goes to Justice Minister Maria Eagle MP to see why the solutions devised during the campaign haven’t been put in place.

We are guided through the number of campaigns that are underway, focusing on the Hackney area. It is clear that the issue is not high on the government agenda, as the work done to tackle it is often done by volunteers for lack of funding.

As well as overlooking the work toward removing weapons from the hands of gangs, Blair addresses why teens feel the need to pick weapons up in the first place.

There is a poignant first-person account of the effects of knife crime from an ex-offender who was jailed for 11 years for murder as a teenager. He started carrying a knife out of fear, never intending to use it. His story shows how easy it is for teens to fall into this way of life, though foregrounds how easily it may be prevented.

Blair provides conscientious analysis, bringing into sharp focus that this is a very real problem that continues to worsen. Although its daily coverage in the pages of newspapers, is does seem removed from us, to the detriment of the cause. A member of the audience of the Channel 4 campaign noted there is a “disjuncture between official data and people’s day-to-day experience�.

The War on Street Weapons succeeds in beginning to eliminate this disjuncture. It is heartening to see action being taken and while there is a long way to go, it is clear a positive difference is being made.

Well worth watching.

Leonie Mercedes

Check out our review on How The Other Half Live for another searingly Channel 4 take on real life, or Double Jeopardy for more shortcomings of the UK legal system.

Christine Wilson says:

THE MEDIA/NEWSPAPERS COULD DO MORE, EVERY SINGLE MURDER SHOULD BE REPORTED, WHEN THE NATION GETS SICK OF THE AMOUNT OF COVERAGE, THEY WILL ACT. IT WILL TAKE ALL OF US TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE. SENTENCING SHOULD BE HIGHER, 30 YEARS FOR A GUN MURDER, THE SAME FOR ANY OTHER WEAPON – TAKE A LIFE/SERVE A LIFE.

MY BROTHER WAS MURDERED, NOTHING CAN BRING HIM BACK, WERE ALL RESPONSIBLE TO HELP MAKE OUR CITIES SAFE.