UK Home Office uses chicken takeaway boxes to tackle knife crime

Initiative roundly mocked on social media, with some suggesting campaign is based on racial stereotypes

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 10: Fans wait outside a chicken shop for some pre match food prior to the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Aston Villa at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on August 10, 2019 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

The UK Home Office has been ridiculed widely on social media after unveiling an initiative to combat knife crime in London.

The campaign will see more than 320,000 boxes distributed to chicken shops throughout England and Wales, with the aim of warning young people of the dangers of carrying a knife.

The Home Office said the insides of the boxes featured “real life stories of young people who have chosen to pursue positive activities, such as boxing or music, instead of carrying a knife".

The campaign, it is hoped, will warn young people of the dangers of knife crime.

But the announcement of the campaign was met with derision on Twitter, with many criticising it as ineffective.

One user called the announcement “pathetic,” while several more asked why the government had made a link between eating chicken and knife crime.

Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott offered a damning appraisal of the project, calling it crude and offensive.

"They would do better to invest in our communities, not demonise them,” the Labour MP said.

Replying to the Home Office announcement on Twitter, many users suggested the announcement was based on racial stereotypes.

David Lammy, opposition MP for Tottenham in North London, asked why the government was targeting fried chicken shops:

Police Minister Kit Malthouse said: “The government is doing everything it can to tackle the senseless violence that is traumatising communities and claiming too many young lives."

Dramatic increases in knife crimes in the UK have made headlines around the world.

Home Office statistics show that in the 12 months to March 2019, 43,516 knife crimes were recorded, an increase of 80 per cent since 2014.

All but one of Britain’s police forces in England and Wales have recorded a rise in knife crime since 2011.

The chicken boxes are part of a wider Home Office initiative, #KnifeFree, to tackle crime.

On Monday, the government announced it was spending £35 million (Dh155m) on 18 Violence Reduction Units that aim to tackle violent crime at the community level.

The first weeks of Boris Johnson’s tenure as UK prime minister have been characterised by a strong focus on crime.

On Monday, the government announced up to £2.5 billion for 10,000 new prison places and a £100m boost for prison security.

Mr Johnson’s spending pledges and recent visit to a prison in Leeds have been seen by some as an early warning for a general election.

Mr Malthouse said the chicken boxes “will bring home to thousands of young people the tragic consequences of carrying a knife and challenge the idea that it makes you safer".

The Home Office said the campaign was intended to change the behaviour of young people aged between 10 and 21, with a particular focus on dispelling the conception that carrying a knife is essential for safety.

About 20,000 similar boxes were distributed from branches of Morley’s, a fried chicken shop based in south London.

Shan Selvendran, managing director at the south London chicken shops, said he wanted to “start conversations among all of our customers".