As Theresa May and senior police officers row over the causes of knife crime, little has been done to amplify the voices of young black teenagers in the capital, for whom the spectre of knife crime is a daily reality.
As the country reacted to the murders of Jodie Chesney and Yousef Makki at the weekend, which the prime minister described as “absolutely appalling crimes”, HuffPost UK spoke to four teenagers across the capital to listen to their views on what should be done to halt the violence.
‘Nowadays, there aren’t many youth clubs’
Tristan Green, 19, from south London said: ″Do you see all of those fancy, luxury buildings that are popping up left, right and centre? The money and space spent on that can go towards building more youth clubs – more of those are needed.”
The teenager said that when he was younger, there was a centre close to where he lived which offered programmes to get involved with. “I loved it,” he said.
“Nowadays, there aren’t many youth clubs for people to go to. If there were more a lot of young people wouldn’t be on the streets and getting up to things they shouldn’t be.
“Obviously what’s going on is drastic and it can’t be solved with just this one thing, but it would be a start. It would help things out.”
‘More police on the streets for what?’
Kevin Smith, 19, from east London, told HuffPost UK: ″[The government should] spend money on youth clubs, not more police, and stop putting up fancy buildings.
“Youth clubs and music studios will help to give young people purpose and something to do.”
Stating that it is the norm for young people not to cooperate with the police because of a lack of trust, Smith said that more police will “only make the situation worse”.
“More police on the streets for what? The police are more against us than for us. Right now I am wearing a tracksuit and a hoodie; if I put my hood up [and go outside], I’m getting stopped and searched for no reason. I feel like I can’t depend on the police [to protect me].”
The teenager recommended that May visits deprived inner city neighbourhoods to get a sense of the environment in which at-risk young people live.
“[May] should come down to the ends and see the youths; bring someone they look up to – who inspires them. She don’t know nothing about the streets; living in an estate, having your mum stressed out, broke and suffering. And imagine being exposed to that kind of pressure as a young child.
“I don’t really even want to talk about the prime minister, to be honest, because she’s not for us.”
‘They do target black youths a lot of the time’
On the other hand, 15-year-old Tashan Otchere, who splits his time between London and Luton, thinks more police officers would help – and thinks youth centres are a good solution.
“Yeah, stop and search can be annoying and they do target black youths a lot of the time but, more often than not, they do actually find stuff [weapons and drugs].
“It is a national emergency. Young people are out here dying on the streets – something needs to be done about gun crime too because that’s just a big issue too... it’s just that more people are dying from knife crime.
“Buying a knife these days is as easy as buying a packet of cigarettes. All you have to do is go online and order it – if you go into a shop and get asked for ID, someone who’s 18 or over can just buy it for you.”
More than 1,000 teenagers were admitted to hospital with a knife wound last year as the number of serious stabbings surged, statistics have revealed.
New NHS figures show that admissions for all knife injuries have increased by almost a third since 2012 – from 3,888 to 5,052 last year.
However, stabbings involving victims aged between 10-19 increased nearly twice as fast, with 654 hospital admissions in 2012-13 up to 1,026 last year – a rise of around 60%.
The situation has been described as a national emergency.
“It’s like a war field going on – everyone’s walking around with Rambos,” Otchere said.
“It may not be important to people [who aren’t affected] but, for me, living in London is traumatising. Young people can’t go to certain areas for fear of being attacked – that’s normal now and it’s not a nice feeling.”
While agreeing with the severity of the issue Smith, however, maintained that it is not new.
“It’s not a national emergency to me because I actually live it. I carry a knife because I feel like my life is constantly on the line; it’s a ‘national emergency’ to those who don’t experience what most young people do.”
“From when we step outside, it’s like we’re nothing to society.”
Why is this happening? It appears that no one has all of the answers.
‘Society makes youth feel that they are nothing special’
Elijah Mohammed, 15, painted a bleak view of the realities of growing up in a city where children are most at risk of being stabbed as they make their way home from school.
“Right now, most young people on the road, in inner city communities, feel insecure because they are vulnerable and have a lot to lose, as they could die,” he said.
“The bad boy/gangster image is a front. They are scared of what could happen and are very fearful.”
Adding that “society makes youth feel that they are nothing special; just a number”, he said social media and violent computer games, such as Call Of Duty, can often spill out into real life – becoming factors in the bloodshed.
“Due to the fact that others are seeing, watching and sharing posts, young people often feel that their status, ego, respect is at stake and things can escalate rapidly – especially through Snapchat, and Instagram.”