London has an acid problem. No, not the kind that makes you see vibrating colors, the kind that leaves people permanently disfigured. Since 2010, there have been over 1,800 acid attacks. Last year there were 454 attacks, compared to 261 the year before.
According to Labour London Assembly member Andrew Dismore, “We have something that is at risk of becoming a fashionable crime … If it does then it is in danger of becoming an epidemic.”
The attacks seemed to be centralized around East London, where victims range between 15 and 29, a third of which are of Asian descent. Men are twice as likely to be victims of these attacks than women.
The theory behind why acid is quickly becoming a preferred weapon is because of its relative ease to obtain. It’s also apparently difficult for investigators to identify the attackers. In some cases, victims are even unwilling to press charges. Many of these attacks never make it to trial.
So, how does London solve this? The materials to make corrosive fluids are cheap and easily available. It’s not prohibitive to carry bleach, nor is it easy to prove any illegal motive in carrying it, it’s also easy to hide any dangerous acids in a water bottle as a disguise. These facts make corrosive fluids very appealing to gang members.
Part of the problem is that the punishment for acid attacks is on the lighter end. While a knife attack can be considered attempted murder, an acid attack is considered GBH (grievous bodily harm) for which there is no serious punishment.
That’s why Britain’s government is working to reconsider how the perpetrators of acid attacks are punished. The victims of these attacks are given a life sentence, why shouldn’t the attackers?