[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Sunday, 18 March 2007, 20:38 GMT
Questions asked over teen murders
By Victoria Bone
BBC News

Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly says the recent series of attacks on teenagers are isolated incidents, not a trend "sweeping the country". But others fear violence among the young is on the rise.

Kodjo Yenga
Kodjo Yenga, 16, died in west London on Wednesday

Ms Kelly's words came just hours after 15-year-old Adam Regis became yet another victim - stabbed to death in Plaistow, east London.

Three days earlier, 16-year-old Kodjo Yenga was also fatally knifed while walking with his girlfriend on the other side of the capital in Hammersmith.

And last month in south London, three teenagers were shot dead in less than a fortnight.

'Wealth disparity'

Armed gangs of youths have been blamed time and again and Ms Kelly said those gangs must be targeted.

She also insisted that saving young lives relied upon efforts to strengthen communities.

But what if those communities are inherently divided?

41% of our children here grow up in poverty and they do that, cheek by jowl, with the huge wealth that London creates and that they know they're never going to get to enjoy
Lyn Brown MP

That was the suggestion of Lyn Brown, Labour MP for West Ham, a constituency which includes parts of Plaistow.

She told BBC Radio 4 that inequality was the root cause of much of the violence.

"I think it's a problem in London that's caused by the huge disparity in wealth," she said.

"41% of our children here grow up in poverty and they do that, cheek by jowl, with the huge wealth that London creates and that they know they're never going to get to enjoy.

"I'm not saying envy is a good reason to go out and kill someone - far from it - but we've also got to look at something that's bigger."

'Family breakdown'

David Cameron, meanwhile, has blamed some of the problems on family breakdown and absent fathers in particular.

"I profoundly believe that family breakdown is at the heart of so many of these problems and it's when families break down that the gangs can sometimes take over," the Conservative leader said.

Mr Cameron played down the role of law enforcement and legislation in stopping the violence at source, but not everyone agrees with him.

Plaistow resident John Davey said he would like to see police officers being more proactive.

"They seem to be turning up after the event instead of preventing it," he said.

Knife crime
Of 820 homicides in 2004/05, 236 (29%) were killed with sharp instrument
This was the most common method of killing
Knives were used in 6% of all violent crimes 2004/05

"I mean, as a youngster myself I was stopped and searched when I was about 16. I didn't mind it, it was just one of them things then.

"But now that deterrent's not there so you haven't got a chance of getting caught."

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell, on the other hand, blamed the government.

"The Labour government refuses to accept that carrying a knife can be as dangerous as a gun," he said.

"The sentence for carrying a knife in a public place should be made the same as that for carrying a gun."

Search for gunman

Mr Campbell added another possible culprit to the list as well - "the culture", he says, "that makes it acceptable to carry knives".

Children are very reactionary and if they start to feel that it's an arms race, they'll get involved
Shaun Bailey
Youth worker

One thing that does not seem to be a factor is location. While many of the killings have been in London, neither knife nor gun crime is confined to the capital.

For example, on 6 March, 17-year-old Jason Spencer was stabbed to death in a street in Nottingham.

And in Manchester, police are still hunting for the gunman who shot 15 year old Jessie James as he cycled through a park last September.

'Arms race'

Last year, a high-profile, UK-wide knife amnesty was held in the wake of another murder - that of 15-year-old Kiyan Prince who was stabbed to death outside his north London school.

More than 100,000 blades were handed in, yet the crimes have continued.

Shaun Bailey, a youth worker and fellow at the Centre for Policy Studies, told Radio 4 on Sunday that such amnesties were "more symbolic than practical".

He feared knife crime was spreading, he added.

"Children are very reactionary and if they start to feel that it's an arms race, they'll get involved."




VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
The scene where the stabbing took place



SEE ALSO
Blair wants gun crime age reduced
18 Feb 07 |  UK Politics



FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

PRODUCTS & SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific