Recently, Barbados TODAY reported on the frightening spectacle of terror on the streets of London where young black men were killing fellow young black men.
A few months later, the situation is no better and appears to have gotten worse. Until recently, the murders of young people were generally reported by the Press as stories of incidences in an almost ad hoc manner.
However, over the last weekend, a 17-year-old English girl was stabbed to death whilst sitting on a park bench in East London. This has triggered a national rather than a local outcry and has brought the issue of youth violent crime and murders fully into focus.
Police, politicians and other members of the community are frantically searching for answers and remedies but there is no clarity for a proposed and concerted action in how to deal with the matter that is a cancer in our society.
We have been reduced to the sad spectacle of the Prime Minister Mrs Theresa May and Metropolitan Police Commissioner Ms Cressida Dick arguing as to whether or not cuts in police funding is the main reason for the escalation in violent crime. The whole issue has become an epidemic which affects mainly London and its black population.
Police numbers since 2010 have been reduced from 140,000 to 117,000 as a result of measures taken by Mrs May whilst she was Home Secretary in charge of Police operations. Needless to say, Mrs May’s actions were thought to be sound policy by members of the conservative party who believed it was all part of an austerity programme designed to save the country’s economy. Mrs May does not accept the commissioner’s assertion that the reduction in the number of officers relates to the increase in crime that has grown to be a crisis.
Sadly, as the authorities continue to argue about the effects of bureaucratic decisions, no one has come up with a meaningful answer and one is reminded of the story of Nero fiddling whilst Rome burnt to the ground. Symptoms are discussed but no word about causes and remedies.
The effect of this violent crime is impacting on all of us as we worry about our children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews. We can never be comfortable as we can never be sure we will not be pulled into the stream of horror as many of the murders go without explanation. London is not a safe place for many.
The statistics paint a gruesome picture:
1. Over the past twelve months, 27 under 19’s have been stabbed to death.
2. There have been 285 knife killings in the UK (mostly in London). It’s the highest recorded number since 1945.
3. The number of those under the age of 17 who have been murdered has doubled since 2016.
4. Twenty people have been murdered in London in the first three months of this year (including a 14-year-old boy).
5. Black people have been involved in 62 per cent of homicides committed in London last year, either as victims or offenders. (The percentage is much higher when analysing homicides where under 25-year-olds were involved.)
6. In the year to September 2018, there were 110 knife crimes a day in the UK.
7. Among the weapons seized were a meat cleaver, a samurai sword and a machete.
8. There has been an increase of 53 per cent in the number of teenagers using knives for robberies, murders, rapes and sexual assaults between 2016 and 2018.
Every time there is a murder of a young person that appears not to be of the stereotype variety, i.e. gang/ drug related, victim lived in a tower block or some ghetto like dwelling or black-on-black, there is a national outcry and rightly so.
But what are the authorities doing to curb and eradicate the wanton violence that is perpetrated by young black men who live predominantly in inner London? Thousands of words have been spoken and written, promises have been made, money has been pledged but it all appears to be of no avail.
The will and commitment to tackle this problem appears sadly to be missing and the sooner the Home Secretary and others acknowledge that it will not go away on its own accord, the more likely we will resolve this matter.
The task forces, consultations and platitudes have not worked and do not look like they will ever work. Those in the midst of it all appear to put two fingers in the air to the authorities. A fresh template is sorely needed. This whole issue is getting into the minds of our society. Their fear is beginning to intrude on their daily and normal movement. Is it not worrying when a 40-year-old man can report that he now travels with a knife in fear of his being and for protection? Where will it all end if it is not wrestled to the ground soonest? And when elders refrain from speaking to or correcting younger people because they (elders) are afraid that the young men might be carrying knives, that truly is a major cause for concern.
We could be in danger of allowing the disregard and disrespect for law and order to go unchallenged. Surely, we cannot return to the days of Jesse James and his cohorts.
Perhaps in closing this chapter on the British scene we should analyse closely the words of Mrs May and decide if it is in her immediate ambition to cut this cancer at its roots. I quote in part: “There is no correlation between certain crimes and police numbers. What matters is how we ensure that police are responding to these criminal acts when they take place, that people are brought to justice.”
Forgive me, but I always thought that good and effective policing, first and foremost, is about the prevention of crime and not the reaction to it.
Vincent “Boo” Nurse is a Barbadian living in London who is a retired land Revenue Manager, Pensions and Investment Adviser. He is passionate about the development of his island home and Disapora.