Another teenager stabbed to death in London
Following a brutal attack of two French students, a 16-year-old boy is the latest youth to be stabbed by a gang of teenagers.4 July 2008
LONDON - London is experiencing an epidemic of knife crime with 13 teenagers stabbed to death this year and two French students murdered in a brutal attack, leaving police apparently powerless to stop it.
Shakilus Townsend, 16, became the latest statistic Friday when he died in hospital of injuries from an attack carried out by a gang of teenagers, including a girl.
"This is another senseless incident in which a young life has been taken away by a knife," said Detective Chief Inspector Cliff Lyons.
As police investigated that case, hardened murder squad detectives were still shocked by the deaths of Laurent Bonomo and Gabriel Ferez, the French science students who were bound, stabbed more than 250 times and set on fire in a flat in the tough New Cross area of southeast London.
"I have never seen injuries like this throughout my career," said Detective Chief Inspector Mick Duthie.
While the circumstances differ, the weapon is the same - that most low-tech of devices, the knife, often taken from a kitchen drawer.
The despair of victims' families was summed up by Brooke Kinsella, a former star of the popular TV soap "EastEnders", whose 16-year-old brother Ben was knifed to death after an argument outside a bar in north London on 29 June.
"Please, please let us learn from Ben and every other child that has been stolen from us," she urged at an emotionally-charged news conference.
"We always knew Ben would make a special mark in the world, and although this is in the worst possible circumstances, hopefully he will be the one that finally puts an end to this."
Her wish was crushed within days, as Townsend was attacked Thursday.
He was the 18th teenager killed in violent attacks in London this year, one more than at this time in 2007 - but it is the increase in knife attacks which is causing concern.
London's new mayor Boris Johnson has made tackling the issue a priority and he revealed this week that more than 1,200 people had been arrested in a six-week-long crackdown, codenamed "Operation Blunt 2," with 528 knives recovered in 26,777 searches.
But the mayor admitted the best advice he could give to children was to avoid trouble.
"Whatever you do, if you see a fight in the street, don't risk it because someone could have a knife. I'm saying to kids: don't get involved, move away," Johnson said.
Portable metal detectors have been set up near schools and the Metropolitan Police said Friday it was increasing the number of officers in the areas of London most affected by establishing a 75-strong "taskforce".
And the government is pumping money into advertising campaigns and initiatives to curb the use of knives.
Criminologist Professor David Wilson, of Birmingham City University, in west central England, said confiscating knives was only a short-term solution.
In talking to boys and girls up to the age of 16, he found that many carried a knife because they felt unsafe.
"I think the phenomenon has been deeper and more extensive in the last five years," he told AFP.
"Two reasons were clear to me. First they said they were carrying knife because it made them feel they were being a man, it got them respect.
"But the most common reason was that young people said they were scared, that they were afraid either for themselves or their friends.
"They felt they did not get protection from the adult world which they didn't think cared about the problems they were experiencing.
"It stands to reason that if more people are carrying knives - and they don't have to buy them in shops, they are readily available in the kitchen at home - they will use those knives much more regularly."
Wilson said young people needed to feel that "they can trust people in authority to solve their problems, and that a lack of trust must be put right over time".
The government and police are trying to involve teenagers who have admitted carrying knives in discussions with authorities, but it is a long-term process.
For now, police seem reduced to merely waiting for the next teenager to be found slumped in a doorway.
[AFP / Expatica]