Gang warfare has turned the capital into a bloody battlefield
Hospitals have become a new front in gang war with rivals laying siege to wards to finish their victims off. It’s sickening, and it begs the question - is anywhere safe in London now?
I’ve seen first-hand how gangs can spark an arms race in cities. If one group of criminals has knives, their rivals arm themselves. With so many weapons on our streets, it sparks real fear in the hearts of communities - and leads to bloodshed with no limits.
The harrowing accounts of NHS doctors and nurses fighting back armed gangs to protect their patients - only to see them return with fresh wounds once released - is a sobering reminder that London has become a warzone.
And it’s young black Londoners who are paying the price for City Hall’s failure to enforce peace.
During Sadiq Khan’s first term as Mayor, there has been a 68 per cent increase in the number of black Londoners murdered compared to the previous five years. The figures only get worse.
Despite making up only 13.3 per cent of London’s population, black people are far more likely to be killed on our city’s streets than any other ethnicity. Over 30 per cent of homicide victims between 2011 and 2016 were black, but the proportion has soared to nearly 44 per cent in the past five years.
For many black Londoners, our city feels unsafe. And for all the politicians and activists banging on about ‘safe spaces’, there’s nowhere to hide from knife crime in London.
But, more can be done - and we can make London safe. It will take all of us, and it can be swift, but only politicians act decisively.
We are heading in the right direction. Police numbers are rising, relieving embattled officers who are simply outnumbered. With the 20,000 additional officers the Conservative Government is recruiting, the police will have the time and resources to embed themselves in communities again, build trust, and put criminals under pressure.
With stop and search, we can start to disarm London. It’s a controversial policy, but believe me, it works. If fear-ridden young Londoners know there are no knives on their street - they won’t feel the need to carry one. And gang members will fear being caught.
London’s police officers are professional, respectful and accountable - but the Mayor’s flip-flopping on stop and search undermines their confidence to use this tool. We need City Hall to be as firmly behind the police on stop and search as the Home Secretary is to empower officers and rid London’s streets of weapons.
But, we must also innovate. New technologies can help the Metropolitan Police detect concealed weapons and ensure no one in busy areas such as transport hubs is carrying a knife. This technology may even allow us to secure hospitals to final create no-go zones for gangs.
A robust and swift police response to disarm London will give communities the breathing space to tackle the root causes of knife crime. Without it, young black Londoners will continue to feel unsafe and trapped by gangs.
You can’t focus on school or take up new opportunities if you are afraid. Parents, families and schools can’t get through to young Londoners if they share the same fear. I know first-hand the power of youth work – I’ve seen it save lives and spread opportunity, but it isn’t a silver bullet.
That’s why we need a new approach to crime in London to get a grip of the problem now, not later. We can’t make London safe without decisive action and there’s only one person in London with the levers at their fingertips, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan.
Article by Shaun Bailey AM first published in the Daily Mail.