London To Require GPS Trackers for Certain Residents Convicted of 'Knife Possession'

The latest in London Mayor Sadiq Khan's war on knife ownership.


Susann Prautsch/dpa/picture-alliance/Newscom

In an attempt to combine his hatred for knife ownership with a disregard for privacy, London Mayor Sadiq Khan announced today some knife offenders will be fitted with GPS trackers upon their release from prison.

It's all part of an "innovative pilot scheme" meant "to reduce reoffending," according to a press release from Khan's office. But there are some troubling aspects of the program, which will affect "up to 100 offenders" in four London boroughs that have been "most affected by knife crime."

For one thing, Khan's office notes that the program's subjects will include not only people who committed serious crimes like robbery or grievous bodily harm, but also those convicted of "knife possession."

"Carry[ing] a knife in public without good reason, unless it has a folding blade with a cutting edge 3 inches long or less," is forbidden by the British government. The same goes for simply owning one of the many knives the U.K. has banned, including switch blades. Violators can face up to four years behind bars, as well as "an unlimited fine."

There are, of course, plenty of good reasons to own a knife, not the least of which is self-defense. The anti-knife folks appear to disagree. "A lot of young people say carrying a knife is for protection, but how does a knife actually PROTECT you?" asks the website for an almost comical anti-knife campaign. "Does it put up a force-field, or make you invincible?" Of course not, but civilians with knives can put up a fight against the criminals who probably weren't going to follow the anti-weapon laws anyway.

Back to London's pilot program: "Under the scheme, offenders who are deemed more likely to reoffend will have their movements automatically checked against the location of reported crimes, with significant matches shared with local police," the press release reads. Khan's office did not explain how officials will determine who is likely to be a repeat offender.

"This innovative pilot will build on the good work of the City Hall funded Violent Crime Taskforce by helping offenders integrate back into society and reducing the risk of reoffending, as well as giving the police the information they need to thoroughly investigate reported crimes," Khan said in a statement.

This all seems very similar a nationwide pilot tagging program that affected some U.K. prisoners released between October 2016 and October 2017. Both programs appear to have been mandatory, and both sent the same message to released offenders: You'd better stay out of trouble, because we're watching everything you do.

This latest program is all the more egregious because it's part of London's misguided war on knives. While the city may have a problem with violence, cracking down on knife ownership is not likely to help. As Richmond Times-Dispatch columnist A. Barton Hinkle suggested in a piece for Reason last year, even if the knife crackdown works, criminals will just turn to legal instruments of violence, like lead pipes.

There's no guarantee that the British Government, much like America's, won't wildly overreach in the name of "safety." In the U.K., it's clear which concept police value more. Look no further than a cringeworthy commercial encouraging people to report their fellow citizens for supposedly suspicious behavior, like buying a hammer.