Youth workers worried about knives: ‘Violence on the street more and more explosive’

Youth workers are worried about the hardened street culture and the possession of weapons among young people. They also see the glorification of violence among this group increasing far beyond the big cities.

“After stabbing incidents in the neighbourhood or for fear of armed groups in the neighbourhood, more and more young people are also carrying weapons”, says Dimitri van den Berg, youth worker in a number of villages in Noord-Holland.

He made an appeal among youth workers to stand up together against the possession of weapons and to discuss this with the young people. Colleagues from at least sixty municipalities have already joined in, including youth workers from Zaanstad, Moerdijk, Helmond, Harderwijk, Tilburg, Apeldoorn and Haaksbergen.

Angh culture

“The violence on the streets is becoming more explosive”, Van den Berg sees. “At first it was still fist to fist, but now more and more young people are pulling knives. This creates a culture of fear which in turn leads to more possession of weapons.”

As an example he points to an incident from a while back: “A number of young people were hanging in the neighbourhood when they were robbed by another group, with weapons. That made a big impression on those young people, and gave them the feeling that they could no longer go out on the street without their own weapons.”

Two young people tell (unrecognizable) the CCeit why they sometimes have a knife in their pocket:

He took the initiative to ask the youngsters to surrender their weapons to him. “We knew some of the youngsters had big knives,” he says. “Then we said, boys, we know about them. You can return them to me anonymously, without any consequences.”

The action yielded multiple weapons. Among other things, a machete measuring 50 to 60 centimetres was handed in to Uad, and the weapons were then given to the police.

In March, the CCeit reported that the number of young people suspected of involvement in a stabbing incident has doubled in recent years:

The increase in the number of suspects of stabbing incidents is most evident among minors, but an increase is also visible among young people aged between 18 and 24 (from 390 in 2017 to 500 in 2019).

Drill stairs

As a possible cause of the increasing glorification of violence among young people, reference is often made to drillrap, a musical genre in which rappers threaten with weapons and violence against groups from other neighbourhoods

That some drillrappers do not shy away from actually using these weapons, became clear at the beginning of August during the fatal stabbing in Scheveningen. Members of a group from Amsterdam stabbed a 19-year-old supporter of a rival Rotterdam drill rap group. A year earlier, drillrapper Jay-Ronne was stabbed to death in Amsterdam.

In order to counterbalance this, rap workshops are organized in Hoorn, among other places, for young people in the neighbourhood. “Drill music is often in the news in a negative way, because of the negative lyrics and images that appear in it”, says youth worker Uad. “We want to give it a positive twist.”

In the workshop they will work together with young people on the music used for drill stairs. “We’ll take the elements that attract them, like the rhythm and the beat, and then we’ll let them write new, more positive lyrics to it” At the end of the week, the youngsters from the workshop will put their first video online.

#NoShank

As the first joint action, the youth workers come today with a campaign on social media. Under the hashtag #NoShank (street language for knife) they want to make a fist against the possession of weapons among young people: