Lambeth shootings, Black community takes charge

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Lambeth is in the grip of a vicious gang war that has escalated out of control. With Church congregations being shot at, little girls gunned down in crossfire, drive by machine gun killings and the latest assassination that took place in the Tulse Hill estate have left the community reeling in shock, anger and despair.

Last night I attended a meeting of Lambeth Police Consultative Group. I am board member of this group and all our members are anxious, worried and frightened for the safety of themselves, their family and friends. The worry is palpable with certain parks and public places being seen as no go areas at particular times of the day and night.

Lambeth feels like a city under siege and the recent escalation and terrifying display of wanton violence, a blatant disregard for public safety, combined with a open defiance of the law has drained away the last remaining confidence of a community who believe they have been comprehensively failed by the local council, the Mayors office and the Metropolitan Police Service.

Last night’s meeting signified a significant turning point for Lambeth communities. It finally dawned on people that the statutory authorities are paying nothing more than lip service to the issue of youth violence. The kind of “We feel your pain" warm words that are designed to patronise and placate angry communities were the order of the day. In Lambeth we have had more strategies to tackle this issue than sand on a beach. The Mayors much trumpeted determination to put this issue on the top of his agenda working night and day to put an end to the scourge of youth crime now seems like a hollow electioneering sound bite.

Whatever the violent crime statistics in other London boroughs Lambeth remains one of the most violent localities in the UK.

The Council stated that it was drawing up yet another ‘strategy’ the 10th in 8 years. It was preparing to ‘consult’ with communities and had established yet another “community reference group”. The meeting collectively groaned suffering what I term ‘consultative abuse’. This condition results from when a community is literally exhausted with repeatedly being asked what should be done only to have their recommendations ignored and then being asked to periodically repeat this process time after time. It’s a form of madness.

We heard that the Youth Offending Team cannot now manage its workload because of cuts. Over 200 dangerous and prolific offenders are being left unsupervised because of staff cut backs. These dangerous youths cannot now be supervised on a daily basis and are left to roam the streets.

We heard from a man who had sought to work with some young people on a local estate during the recent half term and during the current explosion of violence. He recounted to his great surprise that local youth and community centres on the two estates he visited in Lambeth were closed because of cuts. The Council was challenged about the decimation of the youth service at a time when youth violence was increasing.

Trident People, asked who is bringing in the guns and selling them to the youth and why are the police, with all their sophisticated surveillance equipment and detective know how unable to stop the guns and deal with a small bunch of out of control teenagers? The point was made time and time again these are not hardened criminals these are little boys with guns.

Trident complained about the lack of witness we complained about the poor quality of witness protection and the acute housing shortage that left potential witnesses living on the same estate as the accused. Their use of super-grasses in failed criminal trials came under fire and they were told that people would give evidence if they felt that they and their families could be given proper protection. Gangs will be ruthless in targeting anyone they believe is close to someone that is intending to give evidence.

This poses one of the biggest challenges to the judicial system and the gangs and the community knows that the system is not capable of moving large numbers of people into secure and safe accommodation. This means that threats can be made to friend’s cousins anyone who they believe may influence a potential witness decision to give evidence. It’s the single most effective tactic they have and they use it ruthlessly, The fact of the matter is the police do not have the resources to adequately protect potential witnesses and their families. So the gangs rule with a climate of intimidation and fear and no one believes the police when they say come forward we can protect you.

The case of the young man in Peckham, who having agreed to give evidence about the gun running activities of a local gang was found shot dead and set alight in a car in broad daylight, was recounted to the horror of those in attendance.

The meeting spoke of the need for community leadership and parental responsibility. The conclusion was that the authorities could not be relied upon to effectively tackle this issue. The community had to take moral and political charge of proposing solutions and holding to account those whose responsibility it is to safeguard communities.

The community will be coming together to form a body that will push for a preventative, early intervention and diversion agenda. The community has zero confidence in either the police or the council’s ability to deal with the issues. In short the council and the Mayors Office need to give the power and the resources to the community and let is deal with establishing a moral campaign and manage the youth centres and wider services. That's the promise of big society isn’t it?

As one person said last night “With all this going on and police and council cuts taking place you are effectively abandoning us to face the guns alone. Are you waiting for us to take matters into our own hands and start shooting people ourselves” and as another observed in a view that is fast becoming a social fact “black murders keep people in jobs and if you want to understand why nothing is being done its because the kids are black and their murders maintain a whole heap of people in jobs’

Lambeth is a borough living in fear and now the community is beginning to realise there is no justice, just us.

Lee Jasper

Archived Comments

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We can only succeed TOGETHER

So, to sum up this article:
- Council and Police services over the last years, and more so now following cuts, are not able to reduce youth violence alone.
- The government strategies are totally undermined by poor witness protection.
- The local communities have to step up and intervene instead.

Well, I think the 'community' should have taken their share of the burden from a long time ago, and I find it ironic that they have (with notable and inspirational exceptions) sat back and let the council and police take the lead, criticised those same services throughout, and then blamed them for the results as you are doing in this article.

The children doing the killing were created when members of the community had intercourse, and then walked away from, or abused, their children. The children were poorly supported, or they were abandoned again, by the cash strapped education services and safeguarding services. Many children WERE 'saved' from a life of misery and prevented from perpetrating violence by dedicated and well-meaning council and police employees (I am neither by the way), but you choose to insult them and erase them from your article by stating how the 'community' has zero confidence. You can't count how many times a child was prevented from killing, but don't please don't indiscriminately criticise like this and further alienate the very people you say need to listen to you. How is that ever going to help?

And now you think with the right funding the 'community' can save the day all by itself and be heroes. I think you'll find the community would have some successes and some failures just like the current lot, if they were given the chance. However if the community and the authorities BOTH invested honestly and earnestly in positive, collaborative, joint endeavour, I assert that the combined force would have way more success than either group alone.

For as long as the 'community' chooses to criticise and disassociate rather than collaborate and contribute, the sad story will go on.

Police, councils, schools, and funding governments all need to raise their game by listening to the community expertise - I'm definitely behind that message. But communities need to search their souls too and explore why SO MANY children live horrific lives courtesy of the abusive, selfish, disgusting lives their biological parents live? and communities need to intervene in low-level supportive ways. Mentoring. babysitting. Fostering. Adopting. Discouraging casual sex and discouraging parents from abandoning their offspring. Everyone in London, via two people, knows a child who needs support. Do we reach out and give it or do we go shopping, raving, and holidaying?

Together we stand, divided we fall. You wish the community could be heroes and pour scorn on the authorities you so clearly revile. But that is a fantasy. I trust you have the courage to print this comment despite its critical nature.

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