Stemming The Tide

Stemming The Tide : Britain's Knife Crime Crisis (2018-Present)

In the 12 months ending March 2018, 285 people lost their lives as a result of knife crime in the UK. This figure is the highest number recorded since the Home Office Homicide Index began in 1946. 132 of those who died were killed in London, the highest recording made in 10 years. Figures linked to homicide do not usually vary significantly from year-to-year, which is why this steep increase in figures is particularly striking.

Between 2010 and 2017, numbers of police officers fell by more than 20,000, with this sharp decrease leading those living in areas worst affected to begin feeling that much of the blame had began to lie within a justice system that was, ultimately, failing its young people. Cuts to policing have undoubtedly coincided with the rapid increase in knife offences. In spite of this, many point to a far wider set of factors, with no stand-alone element being to blame for such violence taking place on what has now become a daily basis. Rather, a multitude of internal and external influences are to be understood and addressed before any significant changes can be made.

These images serve as a visual exploration of the British knife crime epidemic through the documentation of the inner-city landscape, with pretences surrounding geographical boundaries being broken down by these photographs, gradually ceasing to exist. In addition to the recording of individual cases, this work seeks to serve as an uncensored platform for those who have been directly affected by knife crime, as well as those that are actively looking to fight it, to have their stories heard.

“This project first stood out for me because it's a story that needs to be told. The UK's knife crime statistics are shocking. To know and understand the stories of people directly affected by this epidemic we rely upon photographers and journalists.

Here, the combination of landscape, portrait, and still life studies, the thoughtful way in which they are sequenced, and the sensitivity of the images adds up to a quietly powerful photo essay.”

- Emma Lewis, Curator, Tate London

Malden Road Camden, North West London, February 20th 2018.

In one of five knife attacks across a five hour period, Sadiq Aadam Mohamed, 20, was chased down by four men on Malden Road at around 10:15pm. After trying to take refuge in a stationary car, he was dragged out by the assailants and stabbed multiple times. Later found by police in the residential street, Mr Mohamed subsequently died of his injuries.

Two hours earlier, Abdikarim Hassan, 17, was knifed in the back and chest as he walked along Bartholomew Road in the Kentish Town area. Both young men died within hours of each other, and were just half a mile apart. The attacks were later linked to a further three incidents that were recorded to have taken place across the very same evening. Seven defendants now face prosecution surrounding the night of violence in question.

Craig Pinkney, University College Birmingham, 2019.

As a criminologist, youth violence specialist and transformational speaker, Craig Pinkney’s ethos points towards continuing to ‘bridge the gap between academia and the streets’. By delivering interactive workshops and bespoke training not only locally but also internationally, Craig has earned a worldwide reputation as being a highly trusted and qualified mentor in strategic gang-exit work and mediation.

Whilst working as a full time lecturer at University College of Birmingham, Craig is also the UK Lead for the EUGANGS Project, a collaborative research project focusing on serious youth violence, in conjunction with universities and private sector organisations across seven European countries. Additionally, Craig is an advisor for the Ministry of Justice in Jamaica, an advisor for the Home Office (UK) and an advisor for the Crime Commission (West Midlands).

Link Street, Hackney, London. April 4th, 2018.

Israel Ogunsola, 18, was stabbed to death as he cycled through east London in what was described by the judge sentencing as a ‘sudden, brutal’ attack. The teen subsequently died from a wound to his heart, beneath the shadow of a railway bridge, half an hour after the incident began. Despite the efforts of police officers, paramedics and a trauma doctor from London's air ambulance attending the scene, they were unable to save his life due to the severity of the wounds he had sustained.

Logan Place, Kensington, West London. February 18th, 2018.

A quiet side street, once home to Freddie Mercury’s private estate, where the average property value sits at £2.1M, also the scene of one of last year’s most horrific stabbings. Lewis Blackman, 19, was chased down by a group of 20 people and knifed multiple times after he and his friends tried to get into a birthday party at a flat nearby. His attackers, aged 16 at the time, were caught carrying out the "sustained and ferocious attack" on CCTV.

The pretence that violent crimes are bound by geographical limitations is not new, my work sets to strip back and challenge this ideology. With increasing amounts of young people losing their lives across the country on a daily basis, regardless of where they are living, this very notion has been carried throughout the years in a bid to highlight communities in impoverished areas as being a root cause of inner city violence.

Alison & Josh, Moseley, Birmingham, 2019.

Joshua Ribera was attacked outside the now-closed TC’s venue in Selly Oak, Birmingham, on the night of September 20th, 2013. After a heated altercation, Josh was stabbed once in the heart, the wound proved fatal, he was just 18 years old. The incident took place at a charity party which had been held in honour of Josh’s friend, who had been stabbed to death exactly one year prior. 

Throughout his teenage years, Josh had gained a cult following and had garnered millions of views online from his music, performing under the alias ‘Depzman’, he was well respected within the grime scene and was acknowledged by many as being one of the UK’s most prolific emerging talents. His first and only album, 2 Real, was released in July of 2013, just two months before his death, and had reached the number one spot on the iTunes hip hop charts.

Josh's Bedroom, Moseley, Birmingham, 2019.

Josh's Bedroom, Moseley, Birmingham, 2019.

Josh's Bedroom, Moseley, Birmingham, 2019.

Family Albums, Moseley, Birmingham, 2019.

Sephton Henry, Lewisham, South London, 2018.

Once one of South London’s most notorious gang members, Sephton Henry started selling drugs at the age of 8, he had been to prison seven times by the time he was 23. After leading scores of fellow gang members into the heat of London’s 2011 riots, he realised that his life was spiralling out of control. After turning to Christianity and regaining control of his life, Sephton looked towards using his own experiences to help prevent today’s younger generation from following the very same way of life that he once had.

Sephton now works with charity Gangsline, a non-profit organisation which seeks to help young people and community staff in tackling gang culture. Sephton also works as an activist and public speaker, whilst also being at the forefront of training the government and local authorities on how they can effectively prevent violence on the city’s streets.

John Ruskin Street, Camberwell, South London. January 1st, 2019.

In the first knife attack of 2019, a 33 year old mother of one was found at a residential address in the early hours of new year's day, losing her life shortly after the police and paramedic's initial arrival. Later identified as Charlotte Huggins, she became the first person to be killed in London in 2019. A post-mortem examination gave her cause of death as being a single stab wound. Once again, London's surge in violence bared no signs of slowing down.

Atlantic Rd, Brixton, South London. August 18th, 2017.

Alando Bolt, 45, left an unarmed and defenceless Andrew Thompson, 30, to die after attacking him in the centre of a busy Brixton shopping area. The pair met on Atlantic Road where they were seen talking before Bolt launched himself at Mr Thompson with a blade, fatally stabbing him. Alando Bolt later claimed that he had knifed his victim in self-defence because he thought he was going to be attacked - a claim later rejected by the Old Bailey jury.

Detective Inspector Garry Moncrieff went on to exclaim that the ‘unprovoked, vicious and protracted assault’, which took place in broad daylight, would ‘haunt’ those who saw it, adding that he was glad the jury had ‘seen through Bolt’s spurious claim of self-defence.’ The jury also found Bolt, from nearby Stockwell, guilty of possession of an offensive weapon, according to the Met Police.

Paul Barnes, Kensal Green, North-West London, 2019.

In January of 2017, Paul‘s 15-year-old son Quamari lost his life after being stabbed outside his school in north-west London. The perpetrator, who was the same age, was caught on CCTV fleeing the scene, Quamari himself muttered had also given the name of the boy to medical staff who had been treating him. He was identified almost immediately and arrested.

Although no clear motive has ever been determined, it is thought that the attack was motivated by a petty Instagram feud that had taken place a week prior. One witness, an 11-year-old pupil, told the court how Quamari shouted ‘stop it, I’m sorry’ as he ran for his life, weaving through cars in a bid to get away.

Sentencing the boy to indefinite detention behind bars, with a minimum term of 14 years, Judge John Bevan QC made the decision to preserve the boy’s anonymity in the hope that he would have a chance of rehabilitation whilst behind bars.

Ollgar Close, Shepherd’s Bush, January 11th 2018.

George Koh stabbed fellow model Harry Uzoka multiple times outside Ollgar House amidst a ‘planned’ confrontation which was said to have stemmed from an ongoing social media feud. Mr Uzoka died in the street outside his West London home, the cause of death was later ruled as being a single stab wound to the heart. The 25-year-old was seen by many as being one of the city’s most prominent emerging talents, landing a major movie role just before the brutal attack unfolded.

Accompanied by two friends, Koh and his accomplices were said to have been carrying at least three knives at the time of the incident, one of which was identified as being a large machete. Koh was convicted of murder at the Old Bailey in August of 2018, receiving a life sentence with a minimum of 25 years to serve.

Clapham South Tube Station, South-West London. November 2nd, 2018.

Malcolm Mide-Madariola, 17, was set upon and stabbed by two fellow teenagers after standing up for a friend amidst a heated confrontation. Commuters and passersby witnessed the assault as it unfolded in the middle of the afternoon. The court heard that the killing came just two days after an incident at a nearby sixth form college, where Malcolm was a student, in which there had allegedly been ‘unfriendly eye contact’ and ‘an exchange of words’.

As they grappled, the youth pulled a 30cm long curved hunting blade and stabbed Malcolm once in the heart, both perpetrators then fled, the knife was later recovered from a bin near the scene. A member of the public who witnessed the attack unfold explained that ‘It was strangely calm and quiet. I think everyone was in shock.’ Malcolm became the second teenager to be fatally stabbed in the capital across a period of just 24 hours.

Brisbane Street, Camberwell, South London, July 12th, 2018.

Following a heated argument with her ex boyfriend, 17-year-old Katerina Makunova was found slumped in a block of flats in Brisbane Street, Camberwell, on July 12th, 2018. It is reported that a physical struggle had led to her death.

Oluwaseyi Dada later pleaded guilty to manslaughter, with the court hearing that the wound had been sustained after Katerina had ‘fallen onto her bag’ which had contained the blade. The case served as a tragic reminder of the risks of carrying a knife.

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