London rocked by bank holiday bloodshed

RIP: Rhyhiem Ainsworth Barton (top left) is one of over 60 people murdered in London this year.

Why is violent crime rising? In London, a horrific streak of shootings and stabbings has left one teenager dead and multiple injured. Violent crime rates are surging across the country too.

“Let my son be the last and be an example to everyone. Just let it stop.”

These are the heartrending words of Pretana Morgan, whose son was brutally gunned down on Saturday evening in London.

Rhyhiem Ainsworth Barton, 17, was out playing football with friends when the attack happened. He died at the scene, and no arrests have yet been made.

His mother said Barton was “trying to make a difference” by learning to work with young people.

Barton’s death was the first of a string of violent attacks across London during a blood-soaked bank holiday weekend. On Sunday, two boys aged 13 and 15 were wounded in a shotgun attack, before a 22-year-old man was also shot. Violence spread beyond the capital too, with fatal stabbings reported in Luton and Liverpool.

Figures suggest that nationally, violent crime is on the rise. In 2017, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) recorded a 22% rise in knife crime and an 11% rise in gun crime compared with the previous year.

This rise has been felt acutely in London, with some describing “epidemic” levels of violence. Metropolitan Police are investigating more than 60 alleged murders in the city this year, over half of which were stabbings. Last year there were 116 murders in the capital, a figure that will be overtaken in 2018 if current homicide rates persist.

London trauma surgeon Martin Griffiths, who works at the Royal London Hospital, told the BBC last month that young people are seemingly at greater risk. “Children in school uniforms are being admitted under our care with knife and gun wounds.”

After this weekend’s horrific spate of violence, London’s mayor Sadiq Khan declared his refusal “to accept that nothing can be done to stem the appalling rise of violent crime we are seeing across the country.”

Why is it happening in the first place?


Blame failing institutions, some argue. A leaked Home Office report states that police cuts have “likely contributed” to rising violent crime. Without robust policing, crime will flourish. Furthermore, cuts to youth services and community centres, as well as the spiralling costs of higher education, make it harder for disadvantaged young people to get ahead — making gangs and crime harder to escape.

It is a social problem, others respond. As youth worker Nequela Whittaker argues: “The youth culture seems to be falling apart at the moment.” Social media escalates petty feuds into deadly altercations, and violence has been normalised throughout pop culture. What’s more, broken homes, gangs and inadequate schooling deny young people the stability and reliable role models they need.

You Decide

  1. Should Britain be harsher to criminals?
  2. What is causing the rise in violence?


  1. Crime is a complex thing, and there could be many factors that encourage people to break the law. Write down all the reasons you can think of why somebody might commit a crime. Choose one reason which you think best explains the rise in violent crime described above. Why did you choose this explanation?
  2. A comprehensive survey of 2017 crime rates has been produced by the Office for National Statistics. Read through its main findings by following the link in Become An Expert. Based on your reading, would you describe Britain as a safe country? Why/why not?

Some People Say...

“Poverty is the mother of crime.”

Marcus Aurelius

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Despite the recent uptick in violent crime in England and Wales, Britain still has a low “intentional homicide” rate of 0.92 murders per 100,000 people (as measured by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime). By contrast, the US has a murder rate of 4.9 murders per 100,000 people. The world’s most violent nation is El Salvador with a rate of 108.6.
What do we not know?
We do not know for sure if police cuts have caused the rise in violent crime in England and Wales. Violent crime recorded by police fell between 2009 and 2014, the same time as officer numbers were being reduced. Furthermore, not all police forces with reduced officer numbers reported a rise in violent crime.

Word Watch

Violent attacks
As well as those described here, a 43-year-old man was also stabbed following a traffic dispute. Another three men were left with “life changing” injuries following an acid attack in Hackney on Monday morning.
One boy was reportedly shot in the head, while the other was an innocent bystander. Both survived the attack.
Office for National Statistics
Explore the report for yourself by following the link in Become An Expert.
It is not clear if police cuts are directly responsible for the rise in violent crime. The leaked document claims that cuts probably did not trigger “the shift in serious violence, but may be an underlying driver that has allowed the rise to continue.”
For more on the supposed role of austerity in rising crime, follow The Independent link in Become An Expert.
Nequela Whittaker
A former gang leader before becoming a youth worker. Read about her perspective by following the BBC News link in Become An Expert.


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