And although — thank God — I never stabbed anyone, I can still vividly recall the one and only time I pulled my knife.
It was at a bus stop in broad daylight and I believed I was about to take a beating from multiple assailants. So I pulled out my knife and, as if by magic, the street cleared. Everyone got away from there immediately — the boys that were confronting me, the people waiting at the bus stop.
But as I stood there with a knife in my hand, I knew with total certainty that I had to get rid of it immediately or it would lead me — and some other teenager — to unimaginable, life-wrecking disaster.
And I dropped my knife down the nearest drain.
Because although I was young and dumb, I was not crazy.
I knew my knife — it was one of those French flick knives that British schoolboys brought back from a day trip to Calais in the Seventies — would get me into far more trouble than it could ever get me out of.
Sooner or later I would get caught carrying it, or get caught using it and be locked up.
That knife was going to destroy my life and some other lives too.
And whatever happened to me without a knife, it could not possibly be worse than that. So I ditched my knife because I was afraid of where it would lead me.
But that fear has gone from the knife-carrying youth of 2018.
Kids carry knives knowing they are unlikely to be stopped and searched by the police.
And kids carry knives because they know that even if they do get nicked, the courts will be soft on them — even if they have been arrested with a knife in the past.
A “two strikes and you’re out” law was introduced in 2015 that was supposed to mean automatic jail for anyone caught twice with a knife.
But the courts very rarely enforce it. And so there have been 250 fatal stabbings in the UK this year, including five in London in just six days last week.
One victim was 16. Another was 15.
This obscene slaughter has to end.
Not every youth who carries a knife is evil but every single one of them is more afraid of other teenagers than they are of the authorities. That must change.
And if London Mayor Sadiq Khan truly believes it will take ten years to beat knife crime, he should bugger off to Brussels now to take more selfies with Michel Barnier.
There is no great mystery about why the massacre of our children is happening.
There are fewer cops and more knives on the street — a murderous combination amplified by police reluctance to stop and search.
The weak judges who do not enforce the “two strikes and you’re out” law encourage hardcore gang members to tote machetes and give ordinary kids no reason to throw away their blade.
Where is the incentive to chuck that knife on the nearest skip or drop it down a drain?
But things can change. Not in ten years, Sadiq Khan, but today.
Stop and search must return. The lives of our children must take precedence over political correctness.
In 2008, the Metropolitan Police used stop and search 700,000 times. Last year it was just 100,000.
Unforgivably, successive Tory governments have been slashing police budgets since 2010 — when crime was actually falling — resulting in 20,000 fewer officers.
It is those squishy hearted Tories who want to be thought of as nice, middle-class liberals who have enabled the knife crime epidemic.
Knife crime is NOT inevitable — whatever all those mealy mouthed politicians living their protected, pampered lives might tell you.
But the youth carrying knives must understand that their weapons will bring them nothing but misery.
To them. To their families. And to some other family.
Some of those carrying knives are undoubtedly vicious, drug-dealing thugs.
But most of them are not wicked. They are simply scared, ordinary kids who were unlucky enough to be born in a rough part of town.
It is time to reclaim them. It is time to give those ordinary kids every chance to put down their knife.
And if they refuse, then come down on them hard.
Take it from a former knife-carrying teenager — it would be doing them a favour.
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