Harriet Harman

Member of Parliament for Camberwell and Peckham. Mother of the House of Commons.

Southwark News Column - Government must tackle rising youth violence with urgency required

On 1st August 23 year old Siddique Kamara was stabbed to death just yards from his home on the Brandon Estate. His family are devastated.  And this is the second murder in the same street within the last 3 months.  Rhyhiem Barton, aged only 17 years, was shot dead there on 5th May.

The Police have worked quickly to arrest and charge a man with Siddique’s murder and it is vital that anyone who has any information that can help the police with either crime should come forward. If you do not want to contact them directly you can pass information entirely anonymously to the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.   

The local community are, justifiably, shocked at this second killing.  As I did after Rhyhiem’s death, the day after Siddique’s murder I held a meeting on the Brandon Estate, attended by Southwark Council Leader, Peter John, local councillors for Camberwell Green and Newington, senior members of Southwark Police, the hardworking Brandon Estate tenants' representatives Joy Allan-Baker, June Lewis and Eileen Piper and local residents.   

At both meetings the same concerns were raised.  With the recent killings, parents are worried about having to leave their children and go to work when schools are on summer holidays.  Holiday play schemes are either full or too expensive.  So it was important that Peter John immediately pledged £10,000 from Southwark Council to support the summer youth programme in Rachel Leigh Hall.  They need to be able to pay youth workers and pay for extra sports activities and with the extra funds they can now do that. This isn’t just a problem on the Brandon.  Across all estates there’s a lack of facilities for young people.  It’s bad enough after school and at weekends, but it becomes even more of an issue during the long schools summer holiday.  With all the government cuts, there just isn’t enough money to provide the services that are so badly needed to keep the children of working parents safe and happy when school’s out.

The community also raised concerns about the lack of CCTV particularly around the low-rise homes where the elderly live. I am supporting their application for CCTV and the Council are acting on it, including lopping some of the trees which provide shady spots where criminals can lurk and where they would not be able to be seen by CCTV.   

In both meetings the community and the families have highlighted the role of social media in gang violence.  They believe that the internet is being used both to plan and to incite violence and they’re calling for action.  

Everyone agrees that the internet is crucial for exchanging ideas and sharing art forms. But the local community believe that much of the drill music and videos cross over a line and are used for criminal purposes.

Siddique Kamara was himself a drill rapper, under the name of 'Incognito'. In an interview earlier this year, he spoke about its effect on crime in London - "You see with the crime that's happening right now, music does influence it. You've got to put your hands up and say drill music does influence it." 

The lyrics often glorify gang warfare and include threats against rival gangs or individuals. For example in one track on YouTube, Moscow17 tell rival gang Zone 2 to "check the scoreboard". Another video asks "how you gonna make it even?" Zone 2 then posted a song in response telling their rivals that they would “roll up and burst them”.

I’ve called on Parliament’s Home Affairs Select Committee to conduct an inquiry into whether the police have enough resources to deal with surveillance of the use of drill music for crime, whether internet providers are quick enough in responding to requests to take down material which is inciting crime and whether more powers are needed to stop the internet being used for gang crime. I’m also liaising with the Youth Violence Commission and am a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Knife Crime.

Government cuts both to police budgets and youth services are having a significant effect on the rise of youth violence. Southwark alone has lost a quarter of its police officers since 2010. My Labour colleagues and I are intensifying our demands to government to increase officers on the beat and to restore police and youth service funding. It is time the Government stepped up to treat this crisis with the urgency required to help stop any more young lives being lost to violence and prevent other families and communities going through this heartbreak.  


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