Despite Boris Johnson's election pledge to get tough on London's knife crime scourge, 2008 was one of the worst years on record. 22 teenagers died from stab wounds in the city last year — four on one particularly black day — and despite various measures, the new Mayor has been thus far unable to make much headway.
Not that City Hall can be blamed - nobody seems to have any clear idea how to tackle the problem, and the news that one out of every five shops is selling knives to kids will hardly inspire confidence that 2009 will be any less bloody. Tests run by trading standards officers found that, in 799 attempts, minors were able to purchase a knife on 148 occasions, in some cases from well-known high street stops.
The Mayor's team is once again making loud noises about tackling the problem. Kit Malthouse, deputy mayor for policing, laid the blame at the door of the Home Office, accusing them of "blundering around", and in an unfortunate turn of phrase given the choice of weapon discussed, urged the government to "get a grip" on the situation. Still, he's confident that a change is evident, yet still managed to get in one last sucker punch by suggesting that Labour was "mucking around with statistics".
Given the infatuation that many London teenagers appear to have with blades, this probably wasn't the most opportune time for the Tories to encourage adults to confront unruly juveniles. Yet that's exactly what shadow home secretary Dominic Grieve did, claiming that a Conservative government would "safeguard" those who tackled anti-social behaviourists head-on. We'll see if such have-a-go heroism lasts past the next innocent victim's death.