Not so gentle young men of Verona House

This is depressing news. I’ve just read that a teenager has been stabbed to death in a tower block in Erith, on the border between south east London and north Kent. This is not far from where I’m staying right now. It is also the place where in February 2006, senior citizen Ernest Norton died after five boys pelted him with stones as he played cricket with his son.

Two other youths were injured in the latest incident, one seriously. According to the police, the three may have been involved in an “altercation” with a suspect or suspects who left the flat after the attack.

This is the second reported teenage murder in 2008. The first was that of 17-year-old Henry Bolombi of Edmonton, north London, who on New Year’s Day was chased by a group of youths and stabbed in the chest. Last year, 27 children were killed in stabbings and shootings in the city.

I find it hard to comprehend this, and feel that I live in a completely different world to the youth of London. There has always been violence on the streets and housing estates of Britain’s cities, and records show that night-time Victorian London was a pretty scary place to be in. However, there is a worrying trend revealed in the latest reports and grim statistics.

Much of the violence is inter-gang, but it seems that children and young people who are not part of that culture are also living in fear. A number of government and voluntary sector campaigns have failed to stem the rise in knife and gun crime, and few new ideas are being put forward by either the authorities or third sector agencies.

My friend Ms Baroque has written about war on the streets between youngsters in her part of North London, and the anxiety her teenage children feel when walking the streets. However, Katy notes that the non-combatants are drawing together in mutual support…

“I get the clear picture that the teenagers of Stoke Newington are supporting each other through this, that there is no ‘them & us’ going on. One of them is dead, under the worst circumstances, and they all know they’re in it together.”

Let’s hope for the same reaction on this side of the River Thames.