Social media ‘driving crime’ among young people, says UK’s top police officer
The UK’s most senior police officer says inflammatory content on social media platforms is influencing young people in London and cities to commit violence against each other.
Cressida Dick, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police for London, has made tackling violent crime a central part of her plans since taking up the post a year ago. At the heart of the debate, she believes, is the role of social media in stoking up arguments which often result in terrible acts of violence.
“There’s definitely something about the impact of social media in terms of people being able to go from slightly angry with each other to ‘fight’ very quickly,” she told The Times newspaper.
Commissioner Dick believes that disputes that begin as trivial arguments are escalating into murder and stabbing at ‘unprecedented’ rates, and that the goading of rivals on online message boards and video sites ‘revs’ people up and normalises violence.
This febrile online atmosphere is seen to be contributing to what is currently a highly emotive issue in London and other UK cities, with violent crime, crime now a huge problem. On Easter Monday two shootings in London left a 17-year-old girl dead and a boy, 16, critically ill.
Knife crime has reached epidemic levels, with fatal stabbings in England and Wales at their highest level since 2010/11. There were 215 homicides involving a knife or other sharp implement in the year to March, according to the Office for National Statistics. There have been 10 such incidents in the past fortnight alone.
“I am not a Luddite, the internet is so wonderfully positive in almost every way, but it changes things and it is abused and has its downsides, not just by criminals who set out to use it to enable online fraud but also in this slightly more subtle way, the fact that commmunications speeds up so quickly,” adds Commissioner Dick.
She sees a clear connection between the ‘incredibly abusive’ language seen on social media and rising levels of street violence, adding: “I think it certainly makes it more likely, it makes it faster, it makes it harder for people to cool down before they get going. allows a conversation of a ‘show off’ sort that involves violence. I’m sure it does rev people up.
“We are not going to be held back by so-called political correctness, we will do what needs to be done and get on with it,” says Commissioner Dick.