Teen killings are being fuelled by feuds on social media feuds in which online disagreements are resolved with physical violence, says leading former senior police officer Leroy Logan.
“Certain young people don’t have the skills to deal with their differences without resorting to violence or entrapment in some ways or creating fear for no apparent reason,” the former Met Police superintendent and author told TalkRADIO.
“Education is the key,” said Logan, who has been running the social justice charity Voyage Youth for more than 20 years — aimed at empowering marginalised young black people.
“You’re not going to stop and search the problem, you are not going to arrest the problem. You’ve got to understand whats happening in their culture, how it has been hijacked, how certain things fuel these feuds and then get the trust and confidence of these young people.”
“You got to work with these young people. You can’t do it without their partnership,” he stressed.
But Metropolitan Police Commander Alex Murray has said he wants to see stop and search used “consistently” in violence hotspots across the capital, despite controversy over the tactic.
“I know it is a controversial tactic but when it takes 400 knives or so a month off the streets, then we’re confident some of those 400 would have been used in violence, he said.”
While overall homicide figures in the English capital have dropped, the number of teen deaths has risen, he said.
To date this year, there have been 75 homicides in London, of which 22 involved teenage victims — 29 per cent. Sixteen of the 22 victims were black men or boys.
In 2020, there were 14 out of 127 (11 per cent) and in 2019 there were 26 out of 150 (17 per cent).
The capital is heading for one of the worst years for violent teenage deaths in more than a decade, with previous peaks seen in 2017 when 27 young people died and 2008 when 29 were killed.
Referring to the murder rate, Mr Murray said: “It’s the highest so far since 2007 against a picture of nationally and in London total homicide rates going down and it is disproportionate, it’s hugely disproportionate in both age and ethnicity.”
Last year, a similar rise between April and August was put partly down to feuds on social media spilling onto the streets when lockdown restrictions were lifted.
Mr Murray said online conflicts are one factor behind the number of teen murders and violence also linked to the drugs trade and gangs.
He said: “If you see what we see on social media, it can be incredibly violent, it can encourage violence it can encourage retribution.”
“I’m not talking about Facebook and Snapchat and all these platforms per se, but specifically in particular areas, targeting other postcodes and sort of mocking and encouraging violence in retribution — that combines with the violent drug market and also young people in gangs.”
While the number of teen deaths has risen, the number of under-25s who suffer a knife injury has gone down since 2019.
Officers have visited schools with bereaved mothers who have lost children to knife crime to dissuade teenagers from carrying weapons.
“There is a problem with young boys in London carrying knives,” Mr Murray said. “The peak time is (age) 15 for carrying a knife.
“And they carry it for a number of reasons. A lot of people will say fear, and that’s right. But some of them carry it because of credibility, you know, you want to look good, and as a 15-year-old, you don’t have the self-control, you want to look good, and you carry it. And some people carry them because they want to use them.”
Boris Johnson said on Wednesday that “more could be done to fight knife crime” and urged London’s mayor Sadiq Khan to do better to tackle the issue.
A plan to close 65 local police stations in London was introduced by Mr Johnson in 2013 when he was was mayor of London, and was continued by Mr Khan.
Includes reporting by PA