We have it on no less an authority than The People newspaper that, 40 years ago, the streets of violent Britain were thronged with knife-wielding thugs. Well, I must say that's not quite how I remember it. I carried a knife myself whenever I had the opportunity - I'd been rather fond of the things from early boyhood, but certainly not for purposes of fighting or even self-defence. The fun was in throwing them at trees etc, and doing odd bits of informal whittling, useful cutting jobs, that kind of thing - though teachers, annoyingly, would always confiscate them if they got the chance. In those days, I believe, a sheath knife was part of a Boy Scout's uniform; nowadays, if the government had its way, it would probably land a young person in clink.
Knife ownership most certainly doesn't equate with knife crime, even now. In France, to judge by the prevalence of knife shops, ownership must be near universal, but their knife crime rates are no higher than ours. The present wave of knife crime in Britain (along with gun crime) is a real problem - rather than the 'moral panic' some like to label it - - and it's a problem in a way it never was in the 60s. It's a symptom of a form of social collapse which, happily, was barely under way four decades ago, but which now seems unstoppable.