Why 14 guys walk with a knife in their pocket – and what to do about it

What happened?

Teenagers increasingly seem to carry (and use) knives with them. In 2017, there were 280 incidents involving illegal possession of weapons among young people, 395 in 2019, according to Bureau Halt figures. Also, young people more often say that they feel unsafe without a knife. In Rotterdam previously there was a wave of stabbing incidents. We made a video about it and talked to guys who carry knives with them and sometimes use them.

Why do I need to know this?

You may have seen news reports about stabbing incidents involving young victims and perpetrators come by. Last week Ridderkerk was still in the news, which is near Rotterdam. A 13-year-old boy there, near his school, stabbed a 16-year-old boy in his belly. The mayor of that town now wants a knife ban on minors. The mayor of Nissewaard, a municipality nearby, is also in favour.

Earlier there was a mayor, Drachten‘s, who called this. Then the House of Representatives responded: they said they want to look at the rules about stabbing weapons that are now in place. Can they be different or stricter?

It is striking that these young boys are involved. Criminologist Jeroen van den Broek sees that too. โ€œOlder guys find stitches stupid too, it only draws police to the neighborhood. It makes you get caught sooner.โ€

Who finds what?

A while ago, the mayor of Drachten called for a national ban on stab weapons. He did after 16-year-old Roan was stabbed. The boy died. The mayor then imposed a ban in his own municipality anyway. Now you may ask yourself: is that actually allowed to carry a knife with you?

Depends on what kind of knife it is and where you are. A pocketknife is often allowed, but not when going out or in a football stadium. Larger knives such as stilettos, drop knives and butterfly knives are prohibited. If you have a knife like that, you can get a fine of 350 euros. In general, the rule is: if the blade in its entirety exceeds 28 centimeters or has two cutting surfaces, then it is prohibited.

A kitchen knife, which can also exceed 28 cm, is not forbidden to have. โ€œBut it depends, of course, when and where you carry such a knife,โ€ says the police spokesman. โ€œIn the kitchen drawer, it’s fine. And if you just bought the knife and you still have your receipt with you, it‘s okay. But going to school or having a kitchen knife with you, of course, is not normal. And then the police can act against it.โ€

But why bring a knife down the street? According to criminologist Jeroen van den Broek, it is mainly about the insecurity of young people. โ€œIt is not so unsafe in Rotterdam-Zuid, for example, but the young people feel unsafe. And when more and more young people feel that they need a weapon, that eventually becomes reality.โ€

Also gives a knife with you wearing in some groups status. Van den Broek: โ€œOf course they won’t admit it, because no one is going to say: ‘I carry a knife with me to do bad’.โ€ According to the criminologist, the knife bearers are mainly young people who feel that they have few opportunities in society. โ€œFor example, they‘re not good at school, they’re not good at football, and then they‘re looking for status in other things.โ€ And wearing a knife, or even using it, can then increase status.

A 13-year-old boy told us he stabbed once. His parents want him to remain anonymous. He says, โ€œWhen you grow up here, you automatically become this way. I see how other guys do this, how family does this. I can’t really do anything about it.โ€ In Rotterdam-Zuid, stabbing incidents take place among other things in quarrels between two groups from two different districts. Just meeting someone from the other group could lead to a stabbing.

The police of Rotterdam and Amsterdam want a stronger approach to the violence of the knife. Previously, Rotterdam police said that they search groups of young people as a precaution. When someone turns out to be carrying a knife, they take it and they know to keep an eye on that person. The mayor of Rotterdam also wants to fine parents of young people who are caught with a knife.

Minister Grapperhaus does not think that a ban on knives is the solution for everyone under the age of 18. However, he wants to see more safety deposit checks on high school students and for young people to be searched nearby.