Favourite Share

Killings in the capital

Enough.

Three young people killed on the streets of London in a single April week.

Enough.

Fifty young people in the first three months of the year.

Enough.

The blame game begins. Political points are scored. A generation is written off. Weeks go by. The conversation is forgotten. The news cycle moves on.

Enough.

Enough.

Enough.

It’s been a horrible start to 2018 in London. We all knew knife crime was a problem, but when three teenagers were killed on the streets of our capital in just a few days – two of them shot rather than stabbed – it feels like the time for benign acceptance has to stop.

Enough.

The days following these attacks took a familiar path. Those who support the government were quick to blame the breakdown of traditional family values and the rise of social media. Those who were less sympathetic to Theresa May et al pointed to years of sustained police cutbacks. The arguing went on as the lives lost and those ruined by loss were forgotten.

Enough.

This isn’t to say that these things happen in a vacuum, that the rise in deaths in recent months was down to chance. A leaked report from the Home Office suggests that cuts to police numbers “may have encouraged” violent offenders and “likely contributed” to a rise in serwious violent crime. The report shows that the number of police officers fell by more than 20,000 between 2010 and 2017, and that, despite an overall drop in crime during that time, there was a 20 per cent rise in gun, knife and serious violent crime. Home secretary Amber Rudd dismissed claims that linked the two sets of statistics. However, she has unveiled a new anti-violence strategy to help tackle the issue, with police given the power to seize acid and a ban on ‘zombie’ knives coming into force.

Enough.

Has social media played a part? Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick seems to think so. She told The Times that online activity “revs people up” and “makes it harder for people to cool down”. Cressida cited the 2017 death of 15-year-old Jermaine Goupall, who was stabbed in South London after rival gangs posted videos mocking each other on YouTube. Beth Murray from youth charity Catch 22 said that blaming social media was overly simplistic:

“These sweeping statements are made by adults who see a distinction between the online and the offline world. Young people see no distinction between on and offline. I don’t believe social media is changing people’s behaviour. It’s about people recording the reality of their lives. Shame is a key cause of violence. If you’re beaten up in front of five people, that’s embarrassing. If that’s shared with 5,000 people your reaction needs to be bigger and seen by more people to save your rep as a big man.”

Enough.

So what to do? How to respond? Throw more police onto the streets? Ban teenagers who are in gangs from Snapchat? Some Christians are putting their hands up and doing something. Semi-regular of this parish Guvna B has recorded a track tackling the issue called ‘Dun all the hype’. He says: “[Growing up] a lot of people I knew carried knives. They didn’t carry them to hurt anyone; they were for protection. We’ve had 50 deaths since the start of the year, but this has been happening for years. I’m really passionate about the value of a young person’s life. The song is all about showing young people that they’ve got a purpose and a future. If my heart is still beating I can make a difference. I’m not going to be overwhelmed by violence. If just one person listens to my music and decides to stop carrying a knife, then it’s worth it.”

Founder of XLP, Patrick Regan, whose charity has been working in this area for than more 20 years, described the situation as “heartbreaking”. He said: “Kids are carrying knives out of fear. The fear of being attacked is much bigger than the fear of going to prison. Kids being excluded from school, educational failure and poverty are all factors as well. They make people angry.”

Enough.

Patrick believes the Church is “tailormade” to tackle violence. He says three starting points should be to give young people role models, mentor them and build trust. He told BBC London: “We’ve got to take these stories and make them galvanise us into positive action. We have to grapple with the factors, but let’s not just look at the headlines and have the same debates, let’s be willing to give two hours a week and make a difference. The Church is in every community across the country. Something happens when you realise you’re loved and have a purpose – the faith community has a huge role to play. We’ve got to take prevention seriously.”

There are countless stories of Christians getting involved in this area, but in many ways the time for these stories is over.

Enough.

Those of us who are passionate about children and young people have to step up. Yes, we can pray, yes we can support charities working in this area but, as Patrick says, the Church is uniquely positioned to get alongside the most at-risk young people in our communities. We can befriend, support and mentor. It’s time for us to step up.

Enough is enough.

Click here to request a free copy of Premier Youth and Children's work magazine



« Back to the May issue

comments powered by Disqus