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, 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 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.
My London research aims to:
1) Provide an in-depth study of gangs in London, providing richer detail on the relationship between gang membership, violence and the psychology of shame (drawing on my past civil wars research).
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.