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Boys aged 13 and 15 shot in Wealdstone, north-west London

Written by Denise Akinyemi

The recent wave of violent crimes continue to hit the streets of London as a 12 and 15 year old are
shot in two separate attacks.

Two teenage boys, a 13 year old and 15 year old boy have been fatally shot in north east London, in two separate incidents in London. According to police reports the shootings of both incidents occurred within small distance of each other in Harrow on Sunday afternoon. Officers where first alerted to an incident on high street Wealdstone, Harrow at around 1.17pm on Sunday afternoon where a 15 year old boy was found with gunshot wounds. The information of the location of the gunshot wound on the victim has not revealed as of yet. Meanwhile In a street nearby, 2 minutes later, a second reported incident involved a 13 year old boy who was also a victim of a gunshot wound. It has been revealed the location of the wound was to the head by a shot pellet. Both victims were taken to hospital to be treated for their head injuries. It had been later reported by the police the injuries sustained are non-life threatening. It was presumed initially neither incidents were linked, yet a separate statement announced by the police has stated no arrest nor weapons have been made in relation to both incidences.

The present offences coincides with current spikes in violent crimes this year witnessing London’s murder rate overtake New York, with more murders committed in the city in February and March than so in New York according to police figures. In response to such figures a spokesperson for the Metropolitan police have mentioned they are concerned with the increase in murders in London- “One murder is one to many murders and we are working with our partners to understand the increase and understand what can be done to prevent these tragedies from happening”

Although such news comes during a time were rates of victims of crime generally has declined since the last decade. Yet, High harm offences such as knife and firearms are steadily on the increase with a 22% increase in knife crimes and 11% increase in gun crimes. “Such offences have been seen to be disproportionality concentrated in London and other metropolitan communities”. According to Mark Bangs, deputy head of crime statistics at the office for national statistics. However, further adding “while these crimes are serious in the context of the overall population they are very rare”.

Although the majority of people are unlikely to be on the receiving end of violent crimes, statistic indicate otherwise, young black men are more likely to be the victims of knife and gun crimes especially in metropolitan areas such as London. “I think this has been one of the many problems with policy we say the risk of being a victim of violent crimes is much lower but who are “we” and who are we not including in that category?” says Richard Garside, director at the centre for Crime and Justice Studies. Age and racial categories do not afford the excusable right to be ignored when being young and black is potentially dangerous in and of itself. Nicolas Davies, London police chief superintendent has stated- “There has been a disproportionate amount of young black males that are getting stabbed and unfortunately being killed. The gangs don’t necessarily follow racial groups some can be multicultural but as a rule we’re finding the biggest threat to a young black male is a young black male”.

So what is the solution?

Richard Garside the Director of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies and Senior Visiting Research Fellow at The Open University, believes there ought to be reconsiderations in terms of the resolution of violent crime in society with the probability of including a long term public health approach. “What we are seeing here is the product of a whole set of other social forces that are playing out in at times, really lethal ways in some communities. There is a reason why the is a problem in areas such as Tottenham and wood green but not a problem in Richmond or south Kensington” However this is not to suggest young people who carry knifes and commit such offenses should not be punished, rather a greater emphasis ought to be placed on addressing the root causes of youth violence it’s relation to the low socio economic social context in which it occurs; Rather than just simply punishing the behaviour. Community centres have usually been able to provide the safe spaces needed for young people to escape the harsh realities of their lives, where essentially they can be free from the all-consuming constrains of social inequality. Community centres are an integral part in safeguarding young people from entering a pathway to crime. In particularly by encouraging young people to think critically about the potentially consequences of their actions.

However this proves to be difficult with government funding for youth services- alongside many other public sector services- incurring financial cuts. According to research published last year 22m has been cut from youth services since 2011 and more than 30 youth clubs have been closed down since. Further disadvantaging young people from neglected backgrounds, from benefiting of the provision that youth clubs offer such as learning conflict resolution and critical thinking skills.

Evidently, violent crimes is a complex issue that will require further examination into role socio economic circumstance play as the underlying factor of violent crimes amongst young people. However for change to occur, a multi-agency and community approach must be part of the solution. For every one young person a victim of violent crime is also a mother, sister and aunt bearing the painful aftermath of these offences.

Written by Denise Akinyemi