A Home Office scheme which will see the stories of young people who stopped carrying knives printed onto chicken shop boxes has been branded as “racist” and “offensive” by prominent MPs.
Over 300,000 boxes have been distributed to 210 chicken shops as part of the scheme. Many shops will also display knife free adverts.
‘Street teams’ who have been trained to talk to communities about the risks of carrying a knife will also be working in chicken shops, corner shops, barbers and hair salons, and community centres in London, Manchester, and Birmingham.
Scheme Is ‘Racist’, MPs Claim
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Policing Minister Kit Malthouse said in a statement that the 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”.
“The government is doing everything it can to tackle the senseless violence that is traumatising communities and claiming too many young lives, including bolstering the police’s ranks with 20,000 new police officers on our streets,” he added.
However, the scheme has been met with disbelief by many activists and MPs who say that the scheme is ‘racist’.
“Is this some kind of joke?! Why have you chosen chicken shops? What’s next, #KnifeFree watermelons?” MP David Lammy wrote on Twitter.
Instead of investing in a public health approach to violent crime, the Home Office have opted for yet another crude, offensive and probably expensive campaign.
Diane Abbott, Shadow Home Secretary
Following up in an interview with The Guardian, the MP for Tottenham said that the Home Office was “using taxpayers’ money to sponsor an age-old trope”.
“Boris Johnson has already called black people ‘piccaninnies with watermelon smiles’. Now his government is pushing the stereotype that black people love fried chicken. This ridiculous stunt is either explicitly racist or, at best, unfathomably stupid,” he said.
“I know it might cost a bit more time, effort and money, but I would love it if you would announce a programme of investment in our local communities instead of spending five minutes on a harmful gimmick.”
Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott added: “Instead of investing in a public health approach to violent crime, the Home Office have opted for yet another crude, offensive and probably expensive campaign. They would do better to invest in our communities not demonise them.”
‘Chicken Shop Gangs’
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Giving evidence at the inquiry, the Youth Justice Board of England and Wales (YJB), said that children were also being approached outside of sports grounds and schools.
Criminal gangs use a variety of methods to groom, coerce and control vulnerable children.
Javed Khan, Barnardo’s Chief Executive
“Some individuals we spoke to felt that excluded children are being targeted by gangs. They also said that sometimes children are recruited through an offer of food (referred to as chicken shop gangs),” YJB said.
Javed Khan, chief executive of children’s charity Barnardo’s, added that food and gifts were used to lure children in, and then sexual exploitation and violence were used to control young people.
“Criminal gangs use a variety of methods to groom, coerce and control vulnerable children,” Khan said.
A Step In The Wrong Direction
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The ‘knife free chicken box’ scheme is just one of a number of schemes that Boris Johnson has introduced since becoming Prime Minister in an attempt to reduce crime in the UK.
This ridiculous stunt is either explicitly racist or, at best, unfathomably stupid.
David Lammy, MP for Tottenham
Katrina Ffrench, chief executive of StopWatch – a charity which promotes fair and accountable policing – told RightsInfo that the move was “about political perceptions and personalities” rather than evidence, and claimed that it will foster mistrust between police and black and minority ethnic (BME) communities.
“They have taken an approach which flies against evidence-based policing,” she said. “If we want harmonious community relationships we should do things based on evidence, not on a whim.”
Want to learn more on this topic?
- Read about school exclusions and youth gang violence.
- Take a look at how efforts to reduce knife crime impact children’s rights.
- Learn more about calls to extend police stop-and-search powers.