London fears new wave of gang deaths
• Boy’s death pushes year’s teenage murder toll to 19
• David Cameron warned cuts will unleash ‘era of terror’
Fears are growing that the number of teenage killings in London is back on the rise after the fatal shooting and stabbing of a 17-year-old boy yesterday took the toll for this year to 19.
Scotland Yard figures show that although teenage murders are well down from a high of 29 in 2008, they are significantly up on last year, when 15 teenagers died violent deaths.
Of the 19 adolescents who have been murdered this year, all but two were stabbed or shot.
Lucy Cope, the founder of the campaign group Mothers Against Guns, said she was not at all surprised that the number of teenage murders was rising. “It’s the young gang members,” she said. “They’re reckless, they’re fearless and they scare the older members.”
Cope accused the prime minister, David Cameron, of failing to deliver on his promises to tackle the problem and warned that the coalition’s public spending cuts would unleash “an era of terror”.
She said: “What do they think is going to happen? This is just the tip of the iceberg. Once the cuts come in, crime is going to soar and there will be no resources to deal with it.”
Detectives investigating the murder of the latest victim said he was found on the fourth floor stairwell of Gannet House on the Pelican estate in Peckham, south-east London, a little after 4.30pm yesterday .
An ambulance crew pronounced him dead at the scene 45 minutes later. Two other male teenagers, aged 17 and 18, were treated for stab wounds, and police believe the three attacks are linked.
Three males – two 17-year-olds and an 18-year-old – have been arrested as part of the case, which is being investigated by officers from Operation Trident, the Metropolitan police unit that tackles violent crime in London’s black community.
A woman who lives on the estate told reporters the area was dangerous and urged police to increase routine patrols. The mother of two, who did not want to be named, said problems with gangs had returned after seemingly ending a few years ago.
Jenny Jones, a member of the London assembly and the Metropolitan police authority, said she feared cuts might further damage deprived areas where gang violence was already problem.
“Everything that the government is doing is just making things worse for the kids on these estates,” she said. “What they need is education and entertainment to distract them from getting into these violent groups. It’s not a police problem; it’s a social problem.”
The mayor of London, Boris Johnson, promised to crack down on soaring teenage crime when he was elected in 2008.
Kit Malthouse, the deputy mayor of policing, said today that although progress had been made, far more still needed to be done.
“While the numbers of teenagers dying on our streets is well down from two years ago, it does not lessen the shock of this horrible incident,” he said.
“We have not had a teenage murder in the city for a couple of months, but this tragedy reminds us that we still have a problem with the minority of teenagers embroiled in gang culture and serious crime, who have no respect for life or indeed themselves.
“The mayor and I remain committed to doing everything in our power to tackle youth violence and bring long-term change.
“While we are having some success, I am under no illusion that this is a mission that will take some time to complete.”
The Met also acknowledged there were no easy answers to the problems of youth violence. “We have always said we are in this for the long haul and can only tackle these issues working alongside all the communities in London,” said Commander Simon Pountain.
“The message to people who commit violence is clear – we will come after you and you will be arrested.”
In May 2008, the mayor and the Metropolitan police launched Operation Blunt 2, an initiative designed to tackle serious youth violence by taking thousands of weapons off the streets, arresting offenders and working with different communities to dissuade young people from carrying guns and knives.
The figures are likely to re-open the debate on knife crime. Earlier this month, it emerged that the Conservatives had decided to drop a manifesto pledge to introduce mandatory prison sentences for those caught carrying knives.
In June, the prime minister appointed the former EastEnders actor Brooke Kinsella – whose brother, Ben, was stabbed to death in 2008 – to examine schemes designed to stop young people carrying and using knives.