No news is good news. Last year there were no murders in Hammersmith and Fulham.(In the whole of London it was 99 in the year to November.)
A few years ago they took place with grim regularity. I remember walking down the Goldhawk Road of the Uxbridge Road ten years ago. Metal police notices chained to lamp posts appealing for information were a familiar sight – giving the name (and sometimes the “street name”) of the victim. Often both the victims and perpetrators would be teenagers – members of gangs of black youths killing each other. In 2001/02 there were eight murders in our borough. One of them was a 17-year-old boy murdered in Nandos in Uxbridge Road just opposite Devonport Road, where I used to live.
When I was living at Agate Road in 2007 a 16-year-old boy Kodjo Yenga was knifed to death around the corner in Hammersmith Grove. He was not a member of a gang. One of his killers (who left the scene laughing) had been in court hours earlier and had been granted bail by the magistrates against police advice. Also frustrating was that police officers happened to be in the area at the time of the murder. They were in plain clothes. Had they been in uniform might they attack have been deterred?
There is grief for the families and the friends of those who whose young lives are destroyed. But there is also fear and revulsion for all those who live in close proximity – single women, vulnerable elderly people, those bringing up families. The statistics may pass most of us by – but news of a murder taking place just a couple of streets away makes us disturbed about the community we live in.
Generally the crime rate has been trending downwards but 2014 was the first year without murder in our borough for decades. That is a credit to the efforts of the police. But also reflects the improvements in local schools. Burlington Danes, for instance, was in Special Measures in 2006. It is now a fantastic success. Pupils at that school are surely less likely to drift into criminal gangs than the pupils there a decade ago would have been.
Happy New Year!