London has experienced a rapid and significant rise in violent crime in recent years, particularly involving youth and fatal stabbings. In 2016-2017 the Metropolitan Police announced a sharp increase in gun crime (42 percent) and knife crime (24 percent). In April 2018, latest crime figures caused public alarm as headlines described London as officially more violent than New York city.
This dramatic rise in violence has made tackling urban violence a key priority for the city and led to calls for much-needed academic research on the problem. To date there is limited understanding of why youth violence has rapidly increased in London, or the extent to which it may be connected to gang activity. There are very few in-depth studies of youth violence in London, or of gangs, with limited interviews and first-hand research conducted with perpetrators, victims, communities, law enforcement officers, and other stakeholders. This leaves policy-makers with a drastic lack of evidence from which to base their responses.
The London strand of Youth at Risk/Youth as Risk: Global Responses to Urban Violence will:
1) Provide an in-depth study of gangs in London, providing richer detail on the formation, hierarchies, activities and logic of violent youth groups in the city than currently exists.
2) Provide a constructive assessment of the various security and public-health related approaches that are taken in response to violence, and seek to identify areas where lessons can be learned or where new ideas may be applied and funded to improve policy and practice.
It does this through in-depth qualitative fieldwork with young people, gangs and perpetrators of violence, as well as interviews and discussion (both on and off-record) with community workers, medical professionals, police, teachers, political leaders and other individuals and organisations concerned with reducing urban violence in London. To provide focus, the Boroughs of Lambeth and Newham are given particular attention.
There is currently debate in London over the merits of stop and search and criminal justice measures versus a more public health-centred approach, following the Scottish experience and the Cure Violence model. In this regard, my research contributes to this debate by providing evidence on both London’s specific challenges and comparative findings from other cities where security and public health-centred approaches have been taken.
Publications and Outputs
Details of forthcoming publications and other outputs based on London research will be posted shortly.