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With numerous reports highlighting the spike in violent crime from the beginning of 2018, London is now statistically more unsafe than New York. Whilst the argument has been focused upon police cuts, those who have grown up in the capital’s areas with significant criminal activity know that it is more than simply a numbers game.

South Westminster is known for its wealth and landmarks such as Buckingham Palace and the Houses of Parliament, but North Westminster is completely different: high unemployment and crime has plagued the area for several years. The area near my school had become accustomed to the territorial gang war in the Queen’s Park and Kilburn area between ‘SK’ (South Kilburn) and ‘Mozart’. One such school in the area, St George’s Catholic School, has been at the heart of the matter as this year they will be marking the 25th anniversary of their former head teacher Phillip Lawrence’s death. He died whilst trying to protect a pupil at the hands of gang violence.

I myself had become used to a way of life not typically seen in most schools: all doors unoccupied remained locked, CCTV on every corridor and a full-time police officer patrolling the school and surrounding areas. One person who I had initially became friends with at the beginning of my time there had become consumed by the gang culture. By the end of my time he had been sent to prison for stabbing an opposing gang member to death for seven years – aged just 16.

Other wards with similar signs of social deprivation and crime have also had similar experiences to the one I have mentioned and yet up until now local and national government has seemingly ignored this issue for years. The recent surge in violent crime was just a ticking time bomb in London which has essentially turned into a game of political football between the London Mayor and the Government.

The way to go about solving the problem isn’t simply through increasing the number of police. Instead we need to tackle the causes for people like my former friends joining gangs in the first place.

Perhaps what has been more concerning in terms of cuts in North Westminster is the £300 million reduction in funding for arts and removal of some sports centres in the area. If there is nothing for young people to get involved in then it is much easier for them to go down a route simply to fit in with their peers.

Furthermore, many young people who I have grown up with feel as if they’ve been neglected by the institutions that are meant to provide them with support. Despite the problem having existed for decades there has been no wide-reaching programme by local councils to address the issue. Addressing the consequences of gang crime must be shown to people as soon as they start secondary school and not until they have committed the crime and realise the consequences when it is far too late.

Finally, with such a high BME population in these areas joining gangs it is also important to inspire them towards more positive routes, perhaps through public speaking events. Despite having a high percentage of students on free school meals and having similar levels of social deprivation in the area compared to my own,  Newham Collegiate Sixth Form saw 99% of its students obtain all A*-C grades at A-Level – one of the best in the country. One way in which they motivated their students to target the highest grades was through their lectures programme, where high-profile speakers such as Member of Parliament David Lammy as well as academics from local universities displayed their current research as a source for inspiration towards something that is more rewarding.

With the reality of a situation that has been on the verge of escalation for many years, the current spike in crime warrants an alternative solution to how the problem is currently dealt with. If the same old response is given yet again –  completely ignoring the motivations of joining gangs in the first place – then the situation will only continue to worsen.

Tahmidur Chowdhury is a member of Bright Blue, studies at the LSE and has previously done work experience at Bright Blue. The views expressed in this article are those of the author, not necessarily those of Bright Blue.