Are knives dangerous

SWR2 knowledge Knife as a weapon - causes and consequences of a problem of violence

Knife attacks: high number of unreported cases

The Berlin police counted 2,800 knife attacks in 2018 alone, five years earlier there were a good 2,500 cases. An increase of ten percent. And these are just the cases shown. The police estimate the number of unreported cases to be much higher. There is hardly any precise information about the circumstances of the crime, only this much: 90 percent of the perpetrators are men, not infrequently young men up to 30 years of age. Among them are Germans and non-Germans. Perpetrator and victim sometimes know each other. However, women are often attacked by their partners or ex-partners.

Femicide: a social problem

For the Hamburg journalist Birgit Gärtner, who has been reporting on violence against women for 40 years, these are not "acts of relationship" or "family dramas". Such designations in the media would play down the acts. Instead, Gärtner speaks of femicide or feminicide and a social problem. Because every two to three days a woman is killed by her ex-partner. Gärtner calls for these cases to be condemned as murders rather than manslaughter with lesser sentences.

Changes in emergency care

In a knife attack, there is only a few centimeters between life and death. Survival depends on the force of the attacker. About where on the body the victim is hit and where the knife goes. The emergency care system has already been changed in recent years in favor of stab wounds. Today injured people are only stabilized at the crime scene and then brought to the clinic as quickly as possible. Because often the internal bleeding cannot be detected at the scene of the crime. The surviving victims have to cope with sudden, traumatic interventions in their bodies, with blood loss and great pain.

New group of perpetrators: male adolescents have been noticed for several years

For some years now, in addition to the high number of women murdered by partners or ex-partners, the police have been dealing with an additional group of perpetrators: male adolescents. As early as 14, 15 and 16 year olds carry dangerous combat knives with them and also use them against police officers and other young people. These knives can easily be obtained for a few euros in the outdoor shop or on the Internet, because many of them are not subject to the Weapons Act.

The violence researcher Prof. Dirk Baier has observed an increase in violence with knives among young people for years. He does not want to speak of a real epidemic, but according to surveys every third male adolescent now carries a knife with him. This doubles the risk of violent confrontations, says Baier. He heads the Institute for Delinquency and Crime Prevention in Zurich. Together with a team from the Lower Saxony Criminological Research Institute, he interviewed schoolchildren.

Knife: expression of masculinity

Dirk Baier notes an "ominous alliance" between images of masculinity and the wearing of knives. This trend has increased especially among young migrants of southern European and North African or Arab origin, but also among German young people. In the future, the motifs are to be researched more closely. Why do young men think of knives as an expression of masculinity? Do they get recognition in the group of their peers through this? Or does the fear of becoming a victim of violence play a role?

Prevention program: knives make murderers

In Berlin, the police have long since responded to this trend among young people. Since 2012 she has been targeting young people in schools with the prevention program "Knives make murderers" in order to prevent them from arming themselves. The responsible police superintendent, Gordon Roloff, describes a situation in front of schoolchildren that every knife carrier can get into: knife on man. It is used. The victim dies.

It is important to Gordon Roloff that he and his colleagues do not want to scare young people. Instead, you want to empower them to make their own choices and not become dependent on their peers. In the end, Roloff becomes very clear. It's quiet in the classroom as he explains what the wrong decision was: choosing to take the knife with you at home and arm yourself with it.

More prevention programs than immediate programs are called for

For years there have been calls for knife attacks to be recorded centrally so that reliable statements can be made about the extent and consequences of these acts of violence. At the end of December 2019, the State Secretary in the Federal Ministry of the Interior, Stephan Mayer, said at the request of the AfD parliamentary group in the German Bundestag that "Statistical evaluations for the knife as a weapon could probably be carried out in 2023 at the earliest for the reporting year 2022". An amendment to the amendment of the Weapons Act also gives the federal states expanded options to use knife prohibition zones from now on.

This does not change the cause of many knife attacks, the arming of young men with knives. The violence researcher and expert in knife armament Dirk Baier calls for more prevention than an immediate program so that young people learn that they don't need a knife to be able to show strength. Such prevention approaches are intended to save lives and maintain the health of young people. And they should prevent young men from becoming perpetrators at an early age. In 2018 alone, the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of the Interior counted 1,358 people injured and killed with the "knife as an agent". And that only applies to the cases that have become known.

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