The news last week was full of the hideous story of the 15 year old boy stabbed to death at Victoria Station at 4pm. The fact it was so early and so public, made everyone sit up and take notice. The Daily Mail told of how the boy had been part of an ongoing feud between rival London gangs and had attended one of the 'worst schools in London'. Oh well thats alright then, surely it couldn't possibly have anything to do with our lovely middle class lives. Or could it?
As the mother of a 16 year old boy, I am scared, I am very scared. I'm not just scared for my own son, I am scared for all teenage boys, black, white, Asian, rich, poor whatever, it doesn't matter. It's frightening to walk the streets of London.
I am particularly scared for boys who live in estates where its almost impossible not to be part of the truly awful gang warfare that's going on. I feel for them and their parents and feel inclined to take to the streets myself and stand up and shout about the effect this mindless violence is having on all our children's lives.
There is no way my son or any of his friends are involved in gang culture, but they encounter the fall out on a daily basis. Every time they leave the house, they are on their guard and aware of the threat of violence. I can only imagine what the boys in the gangs feel like, when they venture out alone.
What are these boys actually fighting over? Not even post codes in our area, as they often live within a mile or two of each other. Maybe it's some sort of honor, pride or hierarchy, who knows, I don't think they even know. But somehow they have become so disenfranchised with life, at the tender age of 16 or 17, they feel they have to shoot each other to have some sense purpose.
Last week, a 16 year old boy was shot at at 4 o'clock in the afternoon, a few streets away from our house.. The children (because that what they are) were shooting across a busy street, right next to a nursery. The target was on crutches, due to the fact he had already been shot a couple of months ago (and nearly died). He is 16 and in my sons year at school. Apparently he is a nice boy.
Daughter's friend was on her way home from school and had to hide down an alley to avoid the shots. the day after, there was nothing on the news about it. From all accounts it was like a scene from a Western! The next night, another boy was stabbed to death, about a mile away. Again it was a 'gang thing'.
A couple of weeks ago, a teenager was mugged in central park, no weapons or violence were used, but it was reported on the evening news. Was this because it was such a rare thing, or was it because gang culture only exists in specific areas, and like the Victoria Station stabbing, the fact that it happened in a central area in the middle of the day, made it headline news?
In American cities, neighbourhoods seem more divided and people like us wouldn't dream of living in some of them. Somehow this makes it so much worse. It seems the average American and British citizen is willing to turn a blind eye, as long as it's a 'gang thing' and doesn't affect them.
Well I'm afraid it is about us, it's about our children and the children they go to school with, the children they play football with in the park and the children who may be less advantaged, but also have mums who care about them.
Isn't it time we stopped turning a blind eye and did something about it?