London party

On the front line of London’s deadliest year of teenage murders

It’s Wednesday afternoon and officers from the Met Police Croydon Violent Crime Team are getting ready to go on patrol. The scale of the challenge becomes immediately clear: moments before they take to the streets, accompanied by a Independent reporter, officers hear that a 25-year-old man was stabbed seven times in a children’s playground in broad daylight.

A recreation area where young children used to play after school now serves as the stage for the ‘London violence epidemic’, covered in police tape with an air ambulance positioned to bring the victim to emergency care.

Our reporter on patrol with the Croydon Violence Suppression Unit

(Metropolitan police)

London has had its deadliest year of teenage murders since recordings began, a 15-year-old boy stabbed to death in Ashburton Park in Croydon on December 30, the 29th youngster killed this year. The tragic toll equals the previous record of 2008, and frontline experts have warned the situation will worsen without radical change.

Incidents with knives happen at least three times a week, but police insist the number would be significantly higher without their proactive efforts to tackle the problem. This includes attempts to disrupt inter-gang violence based in New Addington council areas within minutes of each other.

However, challenges of mistrust and aggravation of the police within the community were apparent while patrolling the main street of New Addington. Immediately noticing the unit’s unmarked police car, the youths moved out of the area, unwilling to engage with the police at any level. Or when stopping a car possibly related to a crime, frustration and anger were palpable among the three young people – all black – indignant at being searched and unable to know all the reasons.

Despite controversy, VSU agents maintained importance of checks and searches to get guns off the streets

(Provided)

No drugs or weapons were recovered during the search and although the controversial tactic was criticized by some experts, the unit’s officers maintained its importance in their commitment to remove dangerous weapons from the streets. Our longest siren run of the evening was through the borough looking for a possible knife after a principal called out the warning that a violent ex-student was harassing students outside the school. ‘school. By the time we arrived in the southern Croydon area, nearly 20 minutes away, the individual was nowhere to be found.

Tamim, the 15-year-old son of Hawa Haragakizam, was stabbed to death in Woolwich, south London last summer on his way home from school. ” What does the government do ? What are people doing? Are we going to normalize this monster behavior? Ms. Haragakizam said The independent. She added that Tamim’s friends had needed advice since his death. Whenever she can, she says she will pick up her friends from school to keep them safe.

“I was so proud of him: he had ambitions, he loved his friends, he loved me. I feel like we have to do something. It is painful to see parents go through this; people are scared and don’t know what to do, ”Ms. Haragakizam said.

Drekwon Patterson, 16 (left) and Tamim Ian Habimana, 15 (right) were stabbed to death in London this year. Their parents wonder what will be done to fight violence

(met the police)

Shaun Patterson’s 16-year-old son Drekwon was stabbed to death in Brent earlier this year in February. He said the streets are not safe for young people. “Something is wrong if so many killings can take place,” he said. The independent. “When there’s a murder I don’t see the headlines, Boris doesn’t come and shut us up and talk to us – it’s just allowed. I don’t blame the system, but their plan is not working right now; 28 people died this year and still nothing is done.

Shadow Police Minister Sarah Jones said The independent that the government had ‘dropped the ball’ on youth crime and violence over the past decade with cuts to policing, youth services and a booming drug market, resulting in the record number of teenage homicides in London.

“For many years now, since around 2018, there has been a big push for a public health approach that views violence as a disease that spreads and tries to put in place really effective policing and prevention measures to prevent it from spreading, “the founder of” said the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Reducing Knife Crime and Violence.

“What the government has done in response to these calls is to say that it has a public health approach in its strategy to combat serious violence, but it has done so in a piecemeal fashion,” a- she added.

The MP for Croydon Central lamented the government’s myopia in tackling key contributing factors such as school exclusion and warned that youth violence would not end without adequate resources for prevention and policing.

Trauma consultant surgeon Duncan Bew, a member of the Youth Violence Commission, echoed Ms Jones’ calls for a public health approach to youth violence.

“There has been a tendency to fund solutions for the consequences of violence rather than the causes of the problem and to focus on punitive measures rather than prevention,” Bew said.

“You have to have realistic expectations. There are significant unmet needs within the provision to support youth. We do our best to deal with the consequences, but we have to tackle the root causes or you are still fighting the fires. “

Jermaine Cools, 14, was the 27th teenager to be killed in London this year

(Metropolitan police)

Power the Fight charity chief executive Ben Lindsay has warned of the dangers undiagnosed trauma and poverty would have for young people, insisting that today’s record for youth violence hui is the result of 15 years of cuts to youth services and the police. He added that the pandemic had created a “perfect storm” for violence.

“Ask any practitioner in this field working between 2010 and now; they would have said that the trajectory in which we are moving is one where we will not be able to control this situation because the young people did not receive the support, they did not receive the role models, the resources that these charities had is being kidnapped, ”Lindsay said.

Commander Alex Murray, the Metropolitan Police’s violent crime chief, said The independent that although there was a decline in knife and firearm offenses in 2021, more needed to be done to build trust with communities most affected by crime, also citing police cuts, social media, the growing drug market and poverty as contributing factors to violence.

“The cuts are always a problem. There isn’t enough money for everyone, we’ve had recessions and Covid – everyone has to make choices. Yes, it would be great to have universal service for young people everywhere, but local authorities have limited funds, ”said Murray.

He added: “Young people in black communities trust the police less than average. Where trust should be greatest, it is most fragile. We need to spend time building relationships with families, charities and NGOs showing that our motivations are good. “