Feuds waged on social media and bloody rivalries involving the drugs trade are fuelling a rise in teen homicides in London, according to Metropolitan Police Commander Alex Murray.
The lead for violence has told the PA news agency that, while overall homicide figures in the English capital have dropped, the number of teen deaths has risen.
So far this year, there have been 75 homicides in London, of which 22 have involved teenage victims, a proportion of 29 per cent. In 2020 there were 14 out of 127 (11 per cent), and in 2019 there were 26 out of 150 (17 per cent). Of the teenagers killed in London up to July 19 this year, a disproportionate number, 16 out of 22, were black men and boys.
It means London is heading for one of the worst years for violent teenage deaths in more than a decade, potentially passing the peaks of 27 in 2017 and 29 in 2008. Referring to the murder rate, Mr Murray said: “It’s the highest so far since 2007 against a picture of nationally and in London total homicide rates going down and it is disproportionate, it’s hugely disproportionate in both age and ethnicity.”
Violence causing injury for all age groups in London has also been on the rise since February this year.
A similar rise between April and August last year was put partly down to feuds on social media spilling onto the streets when lockdown restrictions were lifted.
Mr Murray said online conflicts are one factor behind the number of teen murders, along with violence linked to the drugs trade and gangs.
He said: “If you see what we see on social media, it can be incredibly violent, it can encourage violence, it can encourage retribution.
A crime scene following a stabbing in London (inset: Commander Alex Murray)
(Image: David Nathan/MyLondon (inset: Met Police))
“I’m not talking about Facebook and Snapchat and all these platforms per se, but specifically in particular areas, targeting other postcodes and sort of mocking and encouraging violence in retribution, so that combines with the violent drug market and also young people in gangs.”
During the summer holidays the Met is to mount operations to prevent the number of deaths and injuries, including boosting patrols in parks and near bars and clubs. Mr Murray said he also wants to see stop and search used “consistently” in violence hotspots across the capital, despite the controversy that always surrounds the strategy.
He said: “I know it is a controversial tactic but when it takes 400 knives or so a month off the streets, then we’re confident some of those four hundred would have been used in violence.”
Officers have visited schools with bereaved mothers who have lost children to knife crime to try to dissuade teenagers from carrying weapons.
“There is a problem with young boys in London carrying knives,” Mr Murray said. “The peak time is (age) 15 for carrying a knife. And they carry it for a number of reasons. A lot of people will say, fear, and that’s right.
“But some of them carry it because of credibility – you know, you want to look good and as a 15-year-old, you don’t have the self control, you want to look good and you carry it.
“And some people carry them because they want to use them. Sometimes street robberies happen with knives.”
Police and campaigners are trying to warn young people about the the risks and dangers of carrying a weapon. Mr Murray said: “You get into a fight and you’re not carrying a knife, the amount of damage is going to be limited, but if you’re carrying a knife and you’re involved in a fight, suddenly it’s a completely different game and you might end up really hurting someone, going to prison for life, or you might end up losing your life.
“And that’s the message we’ve got to get out – don’t use it, don’t carry it.”
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