Grim teenage murder toll as knife victim dies

So far this year, 27 youths have been killed in London – that compares with 26 for the whole of 2007
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The Independent Online

Another Friday night, another teenager stabbed to death in a fight outside a nightclub. It was in Croydon, south London, but it could have been Lambeth, Southwark, Edmonton or any of the capital's other locations that have seen young men come to violent ends this year.

Last night he was named as Oliver Kingonzila, 19. He was the 27th teenager to suffer a violent death in London this year, earning the dubious distinction of being the youth whose needless death exceeded last year's total of 26 killings.

Police said the fight involved three youths outside the E Bar in Croydon. Two 18-year-olds were arrested, one of whom is being treated in hospital for his injuries.

Despite police and government campaigns to curb teenage gangs and knife culture, the problem of teenage violence in the capital shows little sign of slowing down. Led by a 75-strong task force, Scotland Yard said tackling knife crime had become its "number one priority". According to Metropolitan Police research, almost one in four of all murders in London are committed by teenagers and incidents of grievous bodily harm have risen by 50 per cent in the past four years. Most of the attacks take place in pockets in the south, east and north of London. Five of the dead teenagers lived or died in the Edmonton area of north London while 12 lived or died in the areas of Lambeth, Southwark, Greenwich and Croydon in south London.

A report presented to Lambeth council at the beginning of this year revealed that 27 youth gangs operating in Lambeth were believed to be responsible for 40 murders and 20 per cent of London's youth crime. It linked the growth of gangs to a parallel rise in poverty and added that "conflict in the borough was becoming more violent; the price of firearms was falling and some neighbourhoods were becoming 'no go' areas for outsiders."

A Met spokesman said: "Youth violence is our biggest challenge. We have a long-term strategy to address this problem and we are working closely with our partners and the community to achieve it." Scotland Yard said many of the murders were the result of minor issues, disputes over "disrespect" and scuffles on the street, which suddenly escalated to extreme violence.

The Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, responded to concerns over lethal weapons on the streets by launching the Tackling Knives Action Programme in June. This included a hard-line message that anyone caught carrying a knife was now more likely to be caught, prosecuted and go to prison if found guilty.

The first three months of the nationwide initiative saw more than 55,000 people stopped and searched, 2,500 arrests and more than 1,600 knives seized.