Cities on Edge Youth Knife Crime on the Rise - crime si poa 

Cities on Edge: Youth Knife Crime on the Rise 

By Calvin Kaunda 

Hitherto associated with drug addiction and thought to be only prevalent amongst youth gangs in the coastal city of Mombasa, Knife crime, a chilling reality that casts a shadow over many communities, has lately been on the rise in Nairobi and Kisumu cities. 

Residents in Kondele, Migosi, Jua Kali and Obunga areas of Kisumu City are still reeling from a recent spate of an unexplained wave of theft, violence, and loss of lives executed by well informed and organized faceless gangs in the city involving the glint of a blade. It is the same story in sections of  Mathare, Kariobangi, Eastleigh, Kawangware, and Dandora areas of Nairobi that have also witnessed a disproportionate level of the same crime. 

The story of David, a young man from the Kariobangi suburb of Nairobi serves as a stark reminder of the ripple effect knife crime has on individuals, families, and communities. Growing up in an informal settlement, David witnessed violence firsthand and struggled to find opportunities. He eventually succumbed to peer pressure and joined a group where carrying a knife became a symbol of belonging and protection. He gravitated towards a group of older boys who reveled in a dangerous world where fear was a currency, and David, desperate for acceptance, bought in. 

One tragic night, a minor altercation escalated, and David, armed with a knife, made a fatal decision that shattered his life and the lives of those involved. A casual taunt spiraled into a shoving match and one of the rival gang members reached for a knife. David’s hand instinctively flew to his own pocket, the cold metal a chilling reassurance in his sweaty palm. It all happened in a blur – a flash of silver, a choked gasp, a crimson stain blooming on a torn shirt. 

The world seemed to stand still in the aftermath. The jeering crowd fell silent, replaced by a horrified hush. The weight of the knife in his hand felt heavier than ever, a constant reminder of the life he’d taken, the life he’d shattered – his own included now that he had to spend the rest of his life behind bars.   

Residents of Kondele in Kisumu recently woke up to find the body of an elderly citizen sprawled on the roadside, the latest victim of a gang that inflicted patently painful stab wounds but stole nothing of value from him. Mechanics in the Jua Kali area of Kisumu have for the past couple of months reported break ins and theft from customers vehicles by the same gangs that have left their security guards nursing knife wounds with a couple of the security men reported to have lost their lives.  

However, knife crime is neither solely gang nor Kenya isolated.  For instance, a recent surge of 5% in knife crime incidents across England and Wales highlights a worrying global trend. We have also witnessed many suspected terrorist acts committed by knife wielding attackers. Besides peer pressure, adverse childhood experiences like abuse, neglect, and exposure to parental criminality, reasons behind this rise are increasingly attributed to the underlying pressure young people face to achieve success, coupled with limited opportunities, pushing them towards crime as a desperate outlet.  

“Recognizing that the fight against knife-crime is a process, we must adopt a multifaceted and collective approach to immediately address this emerging crime” says Lillian Museka- Programs Director at Crime Si Poa. Besides offering wellness support to young people, early intervention like awareness creation, skills transfer and co-creating impactful initiatives that provide support and opportunities for vulnerable youth and lead to behavior change are the focal areas of Crime Si Poa as it works with communities to build ownership and break the cycle of violence as a long-term solution. 

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