This London crime map tells a worrying story about poverty and violent crime
London is home to double-decker buses, red telephone boxes, Buckingham Palace and royal guards with funny hats. However, behind the four-for-a-pound picture postcard ideal is the homelessness, the moped gangs and the violent crime. It’s a phenomenon which London crime maps aim to illustrate.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has come in for harsh criticism regarding crime in London. Only this morning, on Good Morning Britain, he received a grilling from journalist and television personality Piers Morgan.
Khan stated that moped crime had gone down by 55 per cent which could be seen as something of a twisted statistic. In May 2018, police recorded 1,154 incidents in which a scooter, moped or motorcycle was used to commit a crime. Admittedly, this is a decrease of 55 per cent compared to July 2017. However, when comparing May 2017 to May 2018, there is an increase of 50 per cent.
This seems to reflect a worrying upward trend when it comes to crime in the capital. Earlier in the year, it was reported that London’s murder rate is now higher than New York’s. Fifteen people were murdered in London in February, compared to 11 in New York. London also came top the following month, with 23 and 21 murders in the two cities respectively.
While New York’s reputation as a hotbed of crime is undeniably outdated, it’s an alarming thought that London’s crime statistics could begin to form an argument that cities’ murder rates and the legal availability of guns aren’t as closely linked as gun control advocates believe. However, it’s where these crimes are occurring which tells the most interesting story.
At first glance, this London crime map might not mean much. It shows the neighbourhoods of Greater London in various colours, denoting how much more prevalent violent crime is in the area compared to the national average.
However, when compared to a map showing the poorest areas, it tells an interesting story. “You’ll notice that the areas that have the highest number of recorded violent crimes are neighbouring those that have the highest levels of people in poverty,” Laurence Guinness, Chief Executive of The Childhood Trust, told the Metro. “They aren’t going to carry out crime in their own neighbourhood - they’re going to go down the road and carry it out.”
Certain crimes - such as moped phone-snatches - are more closely linked to this style of criminality. However, the maps don’t perfectly follow this pattern because, in reality, the divide between rich and poor isn’t drawn across borough lines. Often, the ultra rich and the ultra poor are just one or two streets away.
The devastating fire at Grenfell Tower in June 2017 highlighted this in the most tragic way possible. Its burnt-out shell stands as a reminder to its North Kensington neighbours of the comparatively cramped and dangerous conditions that others live in. There were concerns that undocumented migrants might be unaccounted for but the final death toll stands at 72 people. However, as the city slowly healed from this wound, it stepped into 2018 - the year of the gun.
There have been at least 11 fatal shootings so far this year, in addition to the dozens of murders which didn’t involve firearms. Notable nights of violence included 2 April on which two teenagers were shot just three miles apart (just three days later, six people were stabbed in 90 minutes) and 31 May which saw a shooting in North London’s Brent and a stabbing just streets away, in addition to a further two stabbings. Only yesterday, footage was released of a separate shooting in Brent from the same month.
Indeed, standard sociological models simply don’t apply to London. In the 50s and 60s, “white flight” was a term used in America to describe white middle-class families’ flight to the suburbs. This, in turn, led to phrases like “urban decay”.
However, it was not until 2001 that the London boroughs of Newham and Brent were found to be the first areas to have non-white majorities. Since then, there has been a certain “deurbanisation” - where those with the means to move out of London, regardless of racial background, have done.
Indeed, writer Mark Piggott notes in the Spectator: “A few years ago, after an eight-year-old showed our son his knife, we briefly left for the green fields of Suffolk.” However, on Sunday, a leaked Home Office report blamed Britain's current crime problems on cocaine “flooding the UK”.
Furthermore, the document made much of criminal gangs forming in Britain’s beloved home counties. They are thought to operate in towns and villages all over the country but will tend to get their drugs from London or other urban areas in a phenomenon known as “county lines”.
Meanwhile, there are other areas where the curtain of gentrification has spread from the river - brushing away anyone with a low-to-medium income - into neighbourhoods which were once thought of as up-and-coming, deprived or just outright dangerous.
“A lot of people talk about putting more police on the streets - I’m not sure that’s the best answer,” The Childhood Trust’s Laurence Guinness continues. “This leads to filling our prisons with people from disadvantaged backgrounds and I also think that’s too late.” He adds: “Putting money towards tackling poverty - and tackling childhood poverty - catches these young people before they are lost to a life of violent and gang related crime.”
Last month, The Childhood Trust released a report entitled A Summer Holiday From Hell. Having surveyed 12,000 children, it found that more than half of all disadvantaged children in London have witnessed violence and drug taking in their school holidays and that a staggering 65 per cent are scared of being attacked and exploited by gangs right now - during their summer holiday.
For many, it seems you can either be a villain or a victim and, sadly, the pull factor is clear. In the borough of Tower Hamlets, for instance, the majority of children are growing up in poverty. With a recent report by End Child Poverty claiming this is the case for one third of children across London, having the means to provide both for yourself and your family - in addition to the lure of evading the authorities - is an ever-present temptation for many children.
With more working poor than ever before, a recent study found that 58 per cent of London's residents in poverty are living in working households compared with just 28 per cent two decades ago. Yet Sadiq Khan believes policing is the answer: "The level of knife crime across our country, including London, is simply unacceptable. We’re doing everything we can, in City Hall, to tackle this scourge."
“The figures released today," he adds, on the subject of police cuts, "show the true scale of government cuts to police funding that have hit our city harder than anywhere else in the UK. I make no apologies for relentlessly pushing the government to understand that cuts have consequences and that our police service desperately need more funding right now.”
Curiously, there have also been a string of arrests made for inciting violence in drill music videos. The potential link between certain types of rap music and crime has long been discussed. The difficult question is, does it analyse it, glamourise it, or is it simply a reflection of what is happening in parts of London? Of course, attempting to quash culture is dangerous as it could do more harm than good.
Regardless, the divide between rich and poor in London is becoming narrower as we, it seems, are increasingly living on top of each other. It's not difficult, for instance, to find a terraced Georgian townhouse with one doorbell next to a seemingly identical house but with six doorbells or more.
In some cases, clearly, the divide is no wider than a brick wall. But this divide exists nonetheless and having had to call the police following an acid attack, I’ve seen its effects firsthand.
Tragically, with more than 50 already, it’s looking likely that there will be at least 100 murders in the capital before the year ends. This is in addition to the thousands of other violent crimes which plague the capital. Whether this is down to drugs, police cuts, a lack of upward social mobility, or chicken shops turning into coffee shops, it’s clear that poverty and alienation both have a role to play.