Steep rise in murders among London's youth

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The Independent Online

The number of teenagers murdered in London has risen dramatically during the past two years and will reach an eight-year high in 2008, according to figures obtained by The Independent.

After the killing of 18-year-old Charles Junior Hendricks – the victim of a knife attack in Walthamstow, east London, on Sunday – the number of teenage deaths this year stands at 24.

That figure is just two short of the total of 26 from last year. With a full four months of 2008 remaining, the death toll looks set to rise above that number, making this year the most violent on record. The statistics, which date back to the year 2000, show that the average number of teenagers murdered in London was 17 for the first seven years, before suddenly soaring to 26 in 2007.

Mr Hendricks was the 50th teenager to be murdered in London since the start of 2007 – a toll higher than the previous three years put together.

Although the overall murder rate in London is at its lowest for several years, a growing number of the victims are youths. The Government has blamed the perception of knives and guns as status symbols for the rising levels of street violence, and recently enlisted the help of the England football team to publicise its latest anti-knife campaign.

However, two campaign groups said yesterday the cause was rooted much deeper within society, and both were pessimistic about the trend being reversed in the short term.

Angela Lawrence of Mothers Against Violence, a voluntary organisation which campaigns against gun and knife crime, described the figures as "too alarming for words".

"When we go into schools and talk to young people, or talk to young offenders, we're hearing very similar things. Young people feel that there is no hope and no future for them," she said.

Her views were echoed by Raymond Stevenson, the head of Urban Concepts, the group behind the anti-gun campaign Don't Trigger. The organisation was recently refused funding by the Home Office, and is threatened with closure. He said: "Young people are becoming more angry, more confused about themselves, and more anti-establishment."

Kit Malthouse, the deputy mayor of London with responsibility for policing, said: "These figures starkly underline the importance of putting violent crime at the heart of the mayor's priorities since he was elected."