View on the street: 'Those in charge haven't got a clue'

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Belinda is only 19, but already she has a worldweary cynicism about police and politicians. Her view of the authorities charged with solving knife crime is succinct: they "haven't a clue".

Unlike many of those commenting on knife violence in recent weeks, she has first-hand knowledge of what happens when a knife is used to wound or kill.

Belinda, who lives in east London, was in the back of a car in 2006 when the other occupants of the vehicle picked up a young man, took him for a ride and stabbed him several times. She claims she had no idea the attack was going to happen. Nevertheless, she will face charges later this year.

Now pregnant, she has left behind the friends who saw her involved in street violence throughout her mid teens. She fell into street culture after being expelled from school. "I used to love the attention of winding teachers up and being sent to referral units. They put all the naughty kids together. That's were I met my best friend. You could drink and smoke weed."

She drifted into a world where youths congregate according to race: gangs of black youths, and gangs of Asian youths, rootless and conflicted.

"It all starts with drinking and having nothing to do," she said. "It's the younger boys who carry knives and there's always a fight kicking off. The older boys have a secret compartment in their car, under their seat or something. Girls carry stuff, sometimes a screwdriver."

In Belinda's world, gangs of black youths come into the area to rob, while groups of Asians sit around drinking and getting high, and then trouble flares.

"I stopped going to school when I was 14. I'd hang out drinking and then you cause trouble. Most of my friends are now in prison, or alcoholics. If they want to stop it they need to stop kids drinking. And sort out the way children's homes are run."