Found slumped on the sidewalk by police, a 17-year-old boy became London’s latest homicide victim as a surge in violence continued into the bank holiday weekend.
London police are already investigating over 60 murders this year. In February and March, more homicides were recorded by police in London than in New York for the first time in modern history.
Rhyhiem Barton, described as “bubbly” by his best friend, was killed in a drive-by shooting in broad daylight near his home in south London on May 5. He was pronounced dead on the sidewalk about an hour later.
But it is knives, rather than guns, that have recently pushed up London’s homicide and violent crime rates.
Knife crime has soared by almost a quarter over the year ending March 2018 to 14,680 offences, while gun crime dropped 4.6 percent to 2,435 offences, according to the Metropolitan Police, which covers an area of 8.6 million people.
The latest statistics from the country’s biggest police force reveal that homicides surged by 44 percent in the year ending March 2018.
Gangs account for about half of the crimes that involve lethal gunfire, according to the Police and Crime committee.
Barton’s mother, Pretana Barton, blamed the fatal shooting on a gang who had previously stabbed him, and had threatened to kill him last May.
She insisted that her son, a talented rapper, was not involved with gangs.
“He was just trying to focus and trying to be an architect, he was not a bad child,” she said.
His death comes less than a week after a 38-year-old man was fatally shot in northwest London.
There were ten recorded injuries by violence in the capital over the British bank holiday weekend, in seven separate incidents according to the Metropolitan Police.
Three people were injured by knives, four were injured by gunshots, and three were attacked by a poisonous substance. Seven of the victims were under the age of 25.
‘A culture of blame’
Ex-gang member Sheldon Thomas said that gang violence is a “societal problem” that cannot be solved with “intervention.”
“All these community groups, poor whites, poor blacks, are all blaming everyone, because they don’t want to take a look at themselves,” said Thomas, who is founder of the non-profit organisation Gangsline that helps and supports young people involved in gang culture.
“You can’t blame police, you can’t blame the government…If you’ve got no control over your child, then don’t be surprised if something happens to them,” he said.
To fill the void in their family life, he said many young children turn to YouTube and Instagram.
“We’re in a period of time where it’s ‘cool’ to be a gangster, it’s ‘cool’ to think you’re black when you’re white, it’s ‘cool’ to act a certain way because you’re rebelling against society. It’s ‘cool’ to degrade women and call them [expletive] at home, it’s ‘cool’ to do it. It’s being promoted on YouTube,” Thomas said.
He highlights certain music like trap and drill, rap music on YouTube with ultra-violent lyrics, saying they are the driving force behind violence on Britain’s streets.
“They get bigger hits than Jay-Z and Eminem put together—these are gang members,” he said.
For someone to own a gun in the UK, they must have a firearms certificate, and have a “good reason” to own the gun. Organisations such as target shooting clubs, museums and firearms dealers have to apply for a licence if they want to use or have a gun. In the UK it is not allowed to carry around a gun or a knife for the reason of self-protection.
The UK outlawed almost all privately-owned handguns in February 1997, following a mass shooting in a school in Scotland. The tough laws make it difficult to own a gun.
The most recent data from England and Wales shows that there are 153,404 firearm certificates that cover 539,194 firearms and there are 561,413 people certified to hold a shotgun, and they own 1,331,563 shotguns, out of a population of about 58 million.
Knife Crime Rises by 22 Percent in England and Wales