London’s air ambulance is now being called to more stabbings and shootings than road accidents for the first time in its history, statistics show after two other men were murdered in one night.
Officials said “penetrating trauma” was the most common cause for the helicopter to be dispatched, totalling 560 incidents and overtaking trauma from car and bike crashes.
Dr Gareth Grier, the lead clinician the London Air Ambulance charity, said: “Sadly, through 2017 the number of missions where a patient has been stabbed or shot has risen.
“It is not unusual now for our teams to perform open chest surgery for stab wounds twice in a single day. This would have been unheard of a few years back.”
His warning came after two young men were murdered in separate attacks overnight.
In the first incident came at 9.30pm on Wednesday, when a 20-year-old man was shot dead as he sat in a car in Walthamstow.
DCI Andrew Packer said: “At this early stage, it is believed that the victim was in a stationary vehicle which was approached by a number of suspects before shots were fired.
"These shots have fatally wounded the victim and left his family and friends devastated. We are doing everything we can to find the culprits."
An hour later, an 18-year-old victim was chased by a gang of attackers and stabbed in Chadwell Heath.
An ambulance took him to hospital but he died just under three hours after police were called.
One man has been arrested in connection with the murder, while police appeal for witnesses to come forward.
They are just two examples of a wave of violence sweeping the capital, where 80 people were stabbed to death in 2017 and the New Year was seen in with four murders in a 24-hour period.
New laws have been introduced aiming to crackdown on knife possession – seeing anyone caught carrying the weapons twice automatically jailed – but police have been appealing for help to tackle the “underlying issues” driving the deadly trend.
Knife crime has risen by 21 per cent across England and Wales to a six-year high, with almost 37,000 offences recorded by police in the 12 months to September.
The statistic was revealed on the same day the number of police officers hit a record low, with the Police Federation accusing the Conservatives of “losing control in the fight against crime”.
Forces have been announcing swingeing cut-backs as the Government continues to refuse blanket funding increases, seeing the Metropolitan Police close many police stations and merge its 32 policing boroughs into 12 command units to save £325m.
The London air ambulance is itself a charity and relies on donations to respond to incidents 24 hours a day, sending advanced trauma doctors by helicopter of rapid response car.
Since its inception in 1989, road traffic collisions have been the biggest cause of call-outs but stabbings and shootings made up 31 per cent of the total in 2017 – up 12 per cent.
There were 533 call-outs after road crashes, 412 falls from height and 292 others, including incidents on train lines and suicides.
A total of 1,797 critically injured patients treated in the year, as well as those injured in major incidents including the terror attacks in Westminster, London Bridge and Finsbury Park.
Hackney was the busiest borough, followed Newham and Westminster, while the busiest postcode areas were SE1 in Southwark, CR0 in Croydon and NW10 in west London.
Dr Grier said the air ambulance gave people the “best possible chance of survival” with procedures including open chest surgery at the scene and emergency procedures to stop blood loss.
Jonathan Jenkins, CEO of the London Air Ambulance charity, said the statistics show the scale of vital work costing £10m a year.
“Whilst we all hope that it will never be us, trauma can sadly happen to anyone,” she added.
Police are appealing for information over the stabbings in Chadwell Heath and Walthamstow and requesting witnesses to come forward.
Anyone with information is asked to call police on 101, tweet police @MetCC, or contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
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