‘Crisis of youth violence’: Councillors express condolences as communities ‘traumatised’

Camden Town Hall.

Camden councillors have spoken out this week in unified calls to address the “crisis of youth violence” that has seen five young people killed on the borough’s streets since July.

Borough reps led by Cllr Georgia Gould (Lab, Kentish Town) offered their condolences to the families and friends of Abdullahi Hassan, Alex Smith, Shakira Mercedes, Wilson Varela and Assad Yarrow, who all lost their lives in August and September.

Having met with the families of victims in the days before her remarks at this week’s full council meeting, Cllr Gould highlighted the stigma they had felt at losing a child, and stressed that contributing factors such as grooming gangs, social alienation, poverty and austerity were not the fault of any parent.

Cllr Gould said: “It shames us all as a society that we are losing young people on our streets, and we all have a responsibility to step up and do something about it.

“I don’t want to see young people through the lens of this violence. They’ve got so much to give, and they’re doing that in their communities.

“It’s incumbent on all of us to embrace that potential and ensure they have access to all opportunities.”

The council leader added that Camden Council had invested £500,000 into its youth safety task force, would be bringing in new 18 to 25-year-old workers and an employment service, with a mixture of suggestions coming from across the political divides as to how to address the crisis.

Cllr Gould has also written to Home Secretary Priti Patel, inviting her to visit the borough to see the impact of youth violence firsthand, with an associated demand for more investment in policing.

Cllr Alison Kelly (Lab, Haverstock), who said her ward had been “traumatised” by the violence over the past few months, raised concerns at criminal investigators taking four days to inspect one crime scene, with many officers working 12-hour days so they could visit as many families and communities as possible.

It is understood the Metropolitan Police moved 50 extra officers to Camden for a week, having transferred resources from other places to focus on youth violence.

Cllr Gould stressed the importance of a visible policing presence, adding that she understood from the Met that they are “struggling to get intelligence through”, which the borough leader blamed on cuts resulting in the loss of community officers.

Opposition leader Cllr Oliver Cooper (Con, Hampstead Town) called for the violence to be dealt with through a public health approach, with Cllr Tom Simon (Lib Dem, Belsize) highlighting his party’s policy of the legalisation of cannabis to break the link between drugs, gangs and young people.