White lib­er­als need to stop hand-wring­ing and tell the truth: This is black chil­dren killing black chil­dren...


LAST week, the heart­bro­ken fam­ily of an­other young vic­tim re­turned to their home in Ro­ma­nia af­ter just a few weeks liv­ing here in Bri­tain. Lon­don, they said, was a dan­ger­ous place where ‘ter­ri­ble things can hap­pen in the blink of an eye. If you say the wrong thing to the wrong per­son you could end up dead’.

Their own son, Be­ni­amin Pieknyi, was in the wrong place at the wrong time and was stabbed to death in an East Lon­don shop­ping cen­tre – just one more vic­tim of a vi­cious ur­ban con­flict that has al­ready cost hun­dreds of lives, five in the past week alone.

This new war has spread to pock­ets right across the cap­i­tal, in­clud­ing Tot­ten­ham and Wood Green in North Lon­don, ar­eas I know well. I grew up a few min­utes away and raised my own fam­ily in the shadow of nearby Alexan­dra Palace.

Vi­o­lence is noth­ing new. Al­most half a cen­tury ago, I en­coun­tered my own share of knuckle dusters and bi­cy­cle chains, and the bro­ken front teeth I see in the mir­ror are a con­stant re­minder never to drop my guard if I hap­pen – once again – to be fac­ing an en­emy with a brick in his hand. But the bat­tles now taking place are dif­fer­ent.

The prim­i­tive weaponry of my day has been re­placed by a lethal ar­moury of knives, swords, hand­guns and, oc­ca­sion­ally, au­to­matic ri­fles – some in the hands of chil­dren as young as ten.

Three killings have taken place within ten min­utes of my own front door this year alone – and shrines have been erected to boys and girls sac­ri­ficed in an un­winnable war.

I’m the son of poor im­mi­grants and have no doubt that, were I a teenager to­day, I too would be caught up in the car­nage.

This epi­demic of knife crime has not ap­peared from nowhere. It has been gather­ing for some time, yet the warn­ings from me and oth­ers were ignored. Even now, the po­lit­i­cal re­sponse has been pa­thetic, fo­cus­ing – ir­rel­e­vantly, in my opin­ion – on po­lice num­bers.

In fact there is no ev­i­dence that hav­ing bob­bies on the beat will de­ter teenage thugs. The chances of a po­lice­man be­ing on the right cor­ner at t he ri ght t i me are prob­a­bly less than the same of­fi­cer be­ing struck by light­ning.

But there is plenty that we can do, and ur­gently.

First we need to be clear about who is dy­ing and who is do­ing the killing, and we must be hon­est that there is a racial com­po­nent to the vi­o­lence.

The deaths are taking place in the ur­ban semi- ghet­tos of Lon­don, Manch­ester and other big cities, es­pe­cially those which have be­come home to refugees from war zones in Eastern Europe, Africa and else­where. Many of th­ese young peo­ple have grown up with the ex­treme vi­o­lence of mod­ern war­fare – rape, be­head­ings, ex­e­cu­tions – and are trau­ma­tised in a way that is a dan­ger to them and to oth­ers un­less it is treated.

Mem­ber­ship of a gang brings pro­tec­tion and a sense of be­long­ing and the prom­ise of a slice of the prof­its of the il­le­gal drugs trade.

So the for­lorn at­tempts by politi­cians and me­dia to ig­nore this truth – to avoid ‘stig­ma­tis­ing’ mi­nor­ity com­mu­ni­ties – has been coun­terp r o d u c t i v e , a h a n d - wri n g i n g dere­lic­tion of re­spon­si­bil­ity. It might make ‘ r i g h t - o n ’ whit e lib­er­als feel bet­ter. But the price of their smug­ness is an on­go­ing bloody mas­sacre of black chil­dren with a ca­su­alty list that seems to lengthen by the day.

To tackle it, we ur­gently need a com­bi­na­tion of sticks and car­rots – the first to stem the tide of death, the sec­ond to rad­i­cally change the con­di­tions in which the vi­o­lence grows.

We need to stop the blood flowing by fol­low­ing the ex­am­ple of the Amer­i­can po­lice and iden­ti­fy­ing the high-risk zones, based on data from po­lice, hos­pi­tals and schools. Po­lice should be em­pow­ered to flood th­ese ar­eas, us­ing stop-and­search pow­ers as freely as they wish. I ndeed, t hey should be em­pow­ered with new laws sim­i­lar t o anti- t er­ror l eg­is­la­tion t hat al­lows de­ten­tion of the gang lead­ers who may not wield the knives but give the or­ders.

If the head of the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Po­lice, Cres­sida Dick, is right and hi-tech tools will boost de­tec­tion rates, then fret­ting about pri­vacy from peo­ple whose fam­i­lies are in no dan­ger should be ignored. In ar­eas where the gangs are pri­mar­ily black or from an­other eth­nic group, po­lice might even be per­mit­ted to ap­ply for ex­emp­tion from race dis­crim­i­na­tion laws for a lim­ited pe­riod. This could free their hands to act against spe­cific tar­gets – and few would be more pleased than mi­nor­ity par­ents who con­stantly worry that their chil­dren may never come home.

To pro­tect peo­ple’s rights, every of­fi­cer should be fit­ted with a body­worn cam­era, which should en­sure that such op­er­a­tions are car­ried out fairly and with re­spect.

At the same time, we need to dis­rupt the sup­ply of fresh young­sters en­ter­ing the cy­cle of death. In­stead of spend­ing yet more en­ergy and cash on point­less cam­paigns against so­cial me­dia ‘ hate crimes’, we should of­fer fam­i­lies at risk new homes out­side the area.

An imag­i­na­tive ed­u­ca­tion depart­ment might con­sider fund­ing the school­ing of bright young boys or girls in dan­ger of join­ing a gang at a board­ing school far from the es­tate where they grew up.

It’s no ac­ci­dent that Tot­ten­ham MP David Lammy, who grew up next to the no­to­ri­ous Broad­wa­ter Farm es­tate, got to univer­sity with the help of a mu­sic schol­ar­ship to a school out­side Lon­don.

There must be a range of ‘car­rots’ or in­cen­tives, also. Why not of­fer young pro­fes­sion­als a good rea­son to live in the ar­eas where the gangs op­er­ate. It has been shown in Amer­ica that chang­ing the eth­nic and so­cial mix sig­nif­i­cantly re­duces the pres­ence of drug deal­ers and pimps, and un­der­mines the grip of gang cul­ture on the streets.

We could of­fer a long coun­cil tax ‘holiday’ to peo­ple mov­ing into a high-risk zone, cou­pled with some strong reg­u­la­tion to stop mort­gage com­pa­nies re­fus­ing to op­er­ate in the ar­eas at risk.

Pris­ons are an­other front line in this war, places where the gangs con­sol­i­date their con­trol over cap­tive young men. Cur­rently, the au­thor­i­ties ap­pear pow­er­less to pre­vent the mur­der­ous con­flict we see on the streets play­ing out be­hind bars also. Prison gover­nors need fresh pow­ers to ship out key gang mem­bers, whether black, white, Pak­istani Mus­lim or god­less Eastern Euro­pean.

And in the end, we need to per­suade young men that this isn’t a nor­mal way of life.

Right now, few em­ploy­ers will take the risk of hir­ing some­one with a con­vic­tion.

There are ex­cep­tions, in­clud­ing John Timp­son, owner of the Timp­son shoe re­pair shops, and Lon­don busi­ness­man Iqbal Wah­hab, who has men­tored sev­eral for­mer gang mem­bers to busi­ness suc­cess. Their ex­am­ple must be fol­lowed.

Above all we must name the prob­lem for what it is, if we are to stem this vi­cious tide. Hand­wring­ing helps no one.

We are al­ready too late for the fam­ily of Be­ni­amin Pieknyi.

40 years ago I faced fa knuckle dusters d and bi­cy­cle chains. To­day it’s knives, swords rds and guns s

The crime­wave is taking t place in semi-ghet­tos s – es­pe­cially those now home me to refugees from om war zones s

Three mur­ders this year within ten min­utes of my front door – shrines mark where the boys fell

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