Sam Green was just 17 when he was stabbed during a robbery. “The next thing I knew, I was lying on the floor and everything was going dark,” he recalls. “The world was spinning – I felt really scared.”
Green – whose real name Eastlondonlines is withholding for his safety – is one of a growing number of teenagers injured during knife crimes. Luckily, he has made a full recovery physically, but he says his mental scars will never heal completely.
“I felt an adrenaline rush but then nothing – no pain to begin with,” he says. “And then I looked around and there was blood everywhere. I could feel a numbing pain around the wounds and with time it grew and it became less bearable. I panicked and the throbbing pain was too much to handle so I just lost consciousness.”
According to the statistical website citizensreport.org, a knife was used in 68 per cent of all teenage murders in London during the past eight years and nowhere has suffered more than Lewisham. Three teenagers have been stabbed to death in the borough this year – more than in any other.
Green’s stabbing happened outside the front door of his Lewisham flat in June this year. After hearing Green arguing with his two assailants, neighbours found him unconscious and called the emergency services. He suffered seven stab wounds – most of them in his legs and one in the ribs- and spent several weeks in hospital.
Shortly after the incident, Green was helped by Redthread, a South London based charity that helps youths involved in violence.
“When the police discovered me, they found drugs in my pockets,” says Green. “I thought I was going straight to prison – not like in Monopoly where you collect £200 and a get out of jail free card. I was still in a state of shock. I got a lot of support and information through sessions with Redthread – they were really understanding.”
The charity informed him about next steps – he would be sentenced for possession of drugs. But he still has a chance at leading a normal life and he can form new circles of friends by attending the organisation’s youth clubs and events.
So why do teenagers arm themselves with knives and feel the need to use them?
The reasons vary – self-protection, theft (in a lot of cases to fund a drug habit), to intimidate people or even peer pressure.
Significantly, what teenagers don’t know is that carrying a blade actually puts you at risk. Seven out of 10 young people who end up in A&E with a knife injury have been stabbed with their own knife reports Trusted – an organisation provides information on knife crime to teenagers.
“People carry it for show – to be respected and feared, because the one with the knife has the power,” said Green. “But they know that if they point it at the wrong person, they will take it off you and shove it into your chest.”
Detective Chief Superintendent Dean Haydon of the Metropolitan police’s Trident Gang Crime Command recently said: “That is why it is so important to reach out to young people and try to educate them to make them realise the very real consequences of carrying knives.
“It is a tragic fact that most of the people killed or injured as a result of knife crime in London are under the age of eighteen.”
Charities are encouraging people to be brave and speak up. Fearless, an organisation working with Crimestoppers, helps teenagers by providing information and advice about crime. It also has a phone line, where people can give information about crime anonymously.
Green was born, and still lives, in Lewisham. The borough is in the top eight poorest areas of London. Levels of deprivation there are challenging and families struggle financially, including Green’s.
“Teenagers seek ways of getting money,” adds Green. “Unfortunately, often through crime.”
The youngster admits that his way of life, dealing drugs to earn some “easy” money, is what put him in this situation.
Christopher Onwuzo, a youth projects coordinator at Fearless, says a distrust of authority often prevents teenagers from coming forward with information.
“As a service, we are particularly useful to those who want to do the right thing, but don’t want to go to the police,” he says. “We ran a call to action campaign appealing to young people in the borough of Westminster to come forward about knife crime. By the end of it we received some useful information, which we were able to pass on to the relevant enforcement agencies.”
According to Youth Justice statistics, government support for charitable organisations that help tackle youth offending was cut from £322m in 2013 to £302m last year – a reduction of 6 per cent – putting much of their work in jeopardy.
The Met says it is trying to prevent youngsters from getting hold of knives by cracking down on shops that sell them to under age children. Haydon says: “Your local area should be a safe place to live and raise your family. Knives have no place on our streets.”
Lewisham council is running knife crime awareness workshops in schools, explaining the laws and effects of knife crime. The aim is to give children the confidence to say no to knives.
“Too many of us, young people and our families, are being caught up in knife crime,” Jamel Higgins, former Young Mayor of Lewisham, told the borough’s Young Citizen’ s Panel in April 2013.
“It’s really important that we know how to make the right choices in life, what the risks are if we choose not to, and where we can go if we, or our friends, need help.”
If you want to give information about crime anonymously you can fill an online form https://www.fearless.org/give-info-anonymously or call 0800 555 111