Monday, 27 June 2011

London Murder Squad Detective confirms that comparatively Redbridge has low knife crime

Local people determined to tackle knife crime!

Cynthia Laniyan, DCI Stephen Claymore, Wilson Chowdhry and Danny O'Brien

Questions came in thick and fast.

At Goodmayes Baptist Church on the 23rd June 2011, local community groups and activists met with Detective Chief Inspector Stephen Claymore from the Homicide and Serious Crime Unit for East London, to discuss violent crime in Redbridge.

The meeting was organised by Wilson Chowdhry, Danny O'Brien from Anti-knives UK and  Cynthia Laniyan the mother of  a recent victim who survived a torrid attack resulting in a punctured lung.  Her son was stabbed 15 times after revellers at a party on Breamore Road, engaged in a stabbing frenzy that saw 5 victims in total.  The Ilford Recorder reported on the incident:

Our main aim was to discuss the presence of knife crime in our borough and to encourage the creation of a borough-wide group focused on eradicating such crime from our community.

In his presentation DCI Claymore from the East London Murder Squad talked about the national set up which includes 24 Teams.  In particular he spoke of his own team which consists of 30 members a mixture of detectives and Police Officers who work form a base in Barking.

Stephen reflected on high profile cases such as the murder of Sukhwinder Singh and Aleeza Murza that have  a Redbridge connection.

In brief I summarise the main points of Stephens presentation:

  • 90% of murders are solved in London
  • 20- 30 years of forensic advancement have made our police force the envy of the world
  • In Philadelphia a city similar to London in population and size the knife crime toll is over 4 times larger.
  • although gang related crime in the UK has grown in recent years there are only emerging gangs in Redbridge.  Most gang attacks in the borough are imported from other boroughs.
  • Youth Homicide is only 10-12% of of the national homicide rate.
  • The minimum sentence for murder is now 25 years (30 years for gun related murder) and inmates are required to complete a full term with no option for parole for good behaviour.
  • Over the last 10 years the National homicide rate has been dropping.
  • 1 in 4 homicides are related to domestic violence and police response to domestic violence has become more vigorous.
Stephen went on to talk around the subject of "Joint Enterprise" a common law precedent that has for centuries contributed to perpetrators of the crime remote from the actual murder act, but involved in the killing process by encouraging, aiding or abetting.  For instance if a group of youths are involved in a purposeful altercation involving hitting a victim with fists, one pulls out a knife and kills the victim, all of the boys could receive a murder charge.  Learn more on BBC article:

The Met police has been driving home this potential threat to freedom by visiting local schools and spelling out the potential consequences of being loosely involved in a youth violent crime incident.  Stephen described the shock and realisation that this knowledge was met with by young people.

A call for better community intelligence sharing dominated much of the evening.  People were afraid of repercussions from "snitching" and Stephen explained that most criminals are only concerned about themselves and very rarely is an organised crime syndicate involved in murders.  Others perceived the process of witnessing a very difficult and torrid affair with little protection or care for those giving testimony.

At this point I explained how when I was in primary school I witnessed the perpetrator of a fatal robbery running through my father's rear garden, in an attempt to escape pursuit.  I called the Police and had to then stand as a witness in court.  My father had sleepless nights and whilst waiting for the court hearing we sat in a communal witness area during which the criminal sat before us and glared menacingly.

Thankfully Stephen described positive changes in the witness process that includes separate waiting areas, screening within court from felons views, voice distortion equipment, video witnessing and a whole host of protective mechanism.  Stephen did clarify however that the decision on witnessing technique would be subject to Judges whim, however he explained that Old Bailey (Central Criminal Court) judges are experienced, competent and expert in cases of this nature.  Mistakes do however occur and I brought to his attention the case of Milly Dowler that has received much recent attention.  Stephen agreed that all systems need to be constantly reviewed and updated for continuous improvement and reiterated that witness protection is much better now than ever before including provision of a family liaison officer for serious cases that provided support, advice and clarity to the process ensuring family needs and desires are better understood.  Protected anonymity also prevents media publishing of witness details and can be pursued via judicial discretion. Learn more about the Milly Dowler case here:

A question was raised regarding the empathy of judges and Stephen explained that judges hear these cases regularly as such the pain and suffering of a family becomes evident.

A call was made for better parental awareness of what their children are doing.  Many parents use TV and Computer games as nannies for the children, and do not share the one to one relationship that children crave and require for wholesome development.

Various parents described the stricter upbringing they had when growing up and the positive affects of communal meals that stimulate conversation and togetherness.  TV dinners and the media have swallowed much of what was good in previous families said one visitor.

Gangs members do not always carry knives on their person and may have many stashed at locations in their surrounding areas, to avoid detection.  Local residents who find dumped knives should call the police and council and arrange for a safe collection.

I questioned Stephen for an update regarding Sukhwinder Singh on behalf of lead voice on this matter Upkar Rai who had to make a late cancellation to our meeting.  Stephen described the challenges in this case including the fact that the perpetrator was a stranger, it is easier of course to trace victims where the assailant is a partner or works or studies at a similar establishment.

The Police published a £20,000 reward for evidence leading to the capture of the murderer. However the community is not yet talking and there is the hope that with time someone will come forward.  Some suspects were arrested and released on bail due to a lack of evidence. Eye witness accounts are critical in murder cases.

The good news received was that gang culture in Redbridge was minimal and lacked the territorial aspect of postcodes or other identities exhibited in other London Boroughs.

Young people dominated the latter stages of the questioning.  Questions surrounding the propensity of stop and search undertakings on black and Asian males ensued. In one description reference to regular activity from a perceived "Bully Vans" darkened the image of local policing. Stephen graciously admitted their were problems in the system and that the Met Police was constantly reviewing their processes with a view to make improvement.  One youth described how he was stopped with friends, however, the Police Officer became less aggressive on noticing his mother present in the car.  Stephen also explained that ASBO Officer and the Local Police can set up stop and search sections with enhanced powers in areas of concern using and empowerment termed section 60 that needs to be authorised by the Borough Commander.

The young men also described how some young black men carried knives due to having being attacked before creating a desire for protection, others carried knives to avoid bullying.  Stephen explained that even brandishing a knife in a threatening fashion can lad to a 6 months sentence.  It would be better for young people to communicate their fears to the Police.  It was for this very reason that a system of Police Met Police Liaison Officers has been introduced.  Stephen warned parents of e-bullying and suggested parental control and knowledge of usage should b intertwined with permission.  He still knew the password for his children and monitored their social network activity sometimes in real-time.

An old black lady from the audience explained how she suffered racist abuse from Teddy boys and then punks.  That stop and search policies where significantly more racially motivated.  She gave her support to Police stop and searches believing if it rooted out one criminal in 100 it would be worth it.  She explained to the young men that they have a much easier time with the Police than in her days and that they should do more to improve the service further, even if that meant snitching.

Danny O'Brien from Anti-knife UK, described his facebook page, that provided daily updates on national knife crime reports.  He explained after a question was posed that knife crime victims and assailants traversed the diversity spectrum.  That in Scotland the majority of incidents involved white people and that in other areas such as London black on black or Asian on Asian incidents occurred, he dispelled that myth on the meting that the majority of violent crime was a black community social malaise, explaining it was simply a question of demographics.

His research through visits to school elucidated that many young people were disconnected from the family and valued the companionship of friends over more familial relationships.  He also described how on the internet or gang culture young people would be groomed into friendship until they became dependent, at which point a more aggressive coercing into completing an initiation towards full formal acceptance by a group, would ensue.

A young man commented by stating that peer pressure was a key factor in the carrying of a knife and backed the dissociation from family being a root cause for a life of crime.    Danny called for stronger value building at family level and for parents to be more aware of the needs and desires of their children.  He said their was a definite need for stronger relationship if we are to subvert magnetism to unsavoury groups.

At the end of the meeting a large number of youth including the young man who survived 15 stab wounds questioned the delay in Police arrival and then deliberate wait for an incident to arise.  Telephone calls were made around 22:00 regarding trouble brewing outside the party on Breamore Road.  An armed Police car was seen parked at 23:00 at the top of the road.  However, armed Police only responded after the stabbing incident had occurred regarding the observed ineffective deployment.    Stephen stated that only the local police could answer the question, adding that it may have been due to reticence to send armed officer directly into the party without first engaging with the party-goers using a less fierce looking normal police officer service.

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