The amount of knife and gun crime in the UK is down to lack of services, says a former gang member.
The 24-year-old man, who has asked to remain anonymous, has spoken out about being a gang member in Tottenham, North London.
“I’ve seen people bleed out, and I’ve watched people get stabbed because they walked down the wrong street and into another gang’s territory,” he said.
“It’s like a dog-eat-dog world some days, and you’ve got to always look over your shoulder. It’s no way to live - always feeling like you have to be on your guard - as if someone could just drive by and pop you or someone could walk by and cut you.”
This year alone has seen the number of people in the capital killed by violent crime rise to 62, with two teenagers suffering gunshot wounds over the May Bank Holiday weekend in Harrow.
“They’re just kids. You’ve got people as young as 14 being drafted in by guys in their twenties.”
“These older members are influencing those from broken homes and bringing them in.
“I’ve seen a 15-year-old arming himself with two knives just to walk down to a bus stop to get home.”
It’s not just London with a spate of knife crime, in fact the UK has seen a 21 per cent rise in knife-related incidents in the 12 months leading to September 2017, according to the Office of National Statistics.
“You know, some of these gangs in London have members in Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester.
“Some networks have grown, and that’s been helped with social media and things like WhatsApp.”
Scotland Yard has announced plans to increase police presence in risk areas, as well as increasing the use of blanket stop and search in order to get more weapons off the street.
“A lot of these kids are from broken homes or feel like they don’t belong,” explains the man.
“That’s the main issue. When you’re in a gang you feel like you belong to something, you feel like you have an agenda and it also gives you something to do.”
“Believe it or not, some of this kids are depressed. I was, I felt empty most of the time, but there’s nowhere for these people to go to for help anymore.
“There’s not enough services to help get these kids off the streets and give them a chance of creating a better life for themselves.
“There’s less police on the roads, there’s less community centres and there’s less career advice for some of these people, and something needs to change.”
A report last year by Green Party MP Sian Berry, using data supplied by councils in London, found that more than 30 youth centres had closed between 2011 and 2017, and that ten councils anticipated further budget cuts in the 2017/18 financial year.