Violence epidemic in ‘Wild West’ of London

Overreaction? The UK’s murder rate is higher than Germany and Italy, but lower than France.

How accurate is this description? London has seen more than 70 killings so far this year. Criminals run riot on motorbikes. And now the crime wave is touching the rich and famous…

London’s violent year plumbed new depths on Monday after three shocking incidents took place within hours of each other.

While parked outside of his children’s school, comedian Michael McIntyre was robbed by two men on a moped. After smashing his car windows with a hammer, the men took McIntyre’s watch and fled.

Five hours later, around 7pm, police were called to Feltham, West London, where a 32-year-old woman and an 11-month-old boy had been stabbed. The boy is in a critical condition.

Later that evening, an Australian film crew were ambushed by masked thieves on bicycle. The men threatened the team with a gun and stole their £15,000 camera.

Speaking in Parliament, Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, said that “people are telling me they no longer feel safe in their own communities”, adding that “for some areas it’s fast becoming like the Wild West with criminals no longer afraid of getting caught.”

London has seen more than 70 murders in 2018. In February and March the city witnessed more killings than New York. Violent crime rose by 21% last year, knife crime by 22%, robberies by a third and sex attacks by a quarter.

The newest aspect of this surge is the spate of muggings and stabbings committed by gangs of men on motorbikes. Figures released on Tuesday show that there are around 60 attacks of these kind every day.

The head of the Metropolitan Police, Cressida Dick, called for “some context”, pointing out that there were about 250 murders a year in London 12 years ago, compared with about 150 last year.

That may be true, but Britain’s murder rate, and general crime rate, has increased significantly since the 1950s.

And while most comparisons focus on American cities where guns are easily accessible, a look at the murder rates of other European cities makes for sobering reading for Londoners. There were 39 murders in Madrid last year, and only 21 in Rome in 2016.

But is it really fair to compare London to the Wild West?

Out of control

Look at the news, say some. Violence is out of control in London, and it shows no signs of getting any better. Victims and attackers are becoming younger and younger. And the recent spate of attacks has shown that it is no longer confined to just a few hotspots. London is increasingly lawless.

What rubbish, reply others. The term “Wild West” stinks of scaremongering, and it makes people less safe. All cities have their problems, but according to the Safe Cities Index 2017, London is the 20th safest city in the world (out of its 60 biggest cities). A look at the broader picture reveals that London is not in such a bad state.

You Decide

  1. Is London becoming like the Wild West?
  2. What is the main cause of the rise in violent crime in London?


  1. Of the 50 cities with the highest murder rate in the world, none are in Europe. As a class, discuss why this might be.
  2. Do some research into crime rates in different European cities. You might pick cities you know about, or that you have visited on holiday. How does the data you found compare to that in London? Based on your findings would you say London is particularly bad for crime? Why/why not?

Some People Say...

“Poverty is the mother of crime.”

Marcus Aurelius

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Violence of most kinds has risen in London this year. Much of this is due to conflicts between different gangs fighting over drug territories. A key part of this recent rise has been crime committed on mopeds or motorbikes. We know that London’s murder rate has been steadily rising for a decade, but that it was higher in the 1990s.
What do we not know?
What can be done to stop it. Some blame failing institutions. A leaked Home Office report stated that police cuts have “likely contributed” to rising violent crime. Others blame a deeper malaise in society, where young men have no male role models in life and where pop culture has normalised and glamourised extreme violence.

Word Watch

Rehan Khan, 25, has handed himself into police after being named as the prime suspect.
More than 70 murders
Police have arrested a 14-year-old in connection with the killing of a delivery driver in Chelsea last Thursday.
More killings than New York
This statistic has become very controversial. So far in 2018, the Metropolitan Police has investigated fewer murders than the New York Police Department. Also missing from the headlines is the fact that crime in New York has recently plunged to record lows. Last year saw the lowest number of murders in the city since records began.
Gangs of men on motorbikes
Until recently, police were not allowed to chase these gangs if they were not wearing helmets while riding their motorbikes, resulting in criminals jettisoning their helmets as soon as the police gave chase.
Safe Cities Index 2017
The safest three cities on the list were Tokyo, Singapore and Osaka, while the three most dangerous were Dhaka, Yangon and Karachi.


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