Socialist Worker

Young people on their experience of gangs and violence

by Leila Assaf
Issue No. 2047

On the Morningside estate, Hackney east London – Wonu, Natasha and Patrick

On the Morningside estate, Hackney east London – Wonu, Natasha and Patrick

A group of young people on the Morningside estate in Hackney, east London, spoke to Socialist Worker about knife crime.

Natasha said, “It feels like it’s getting worse nowadays, with all the reports about gun crime and knifings in the news.”

Morgan added, “It’s getting worse in some areas, but in others you don’t hear about anything happening”.

“It is upsetting,” Aimee said, “but I don’t think things have got worse around here.”

The government has proposed increased policing in “troubled” areas and tougher laws for carrying knives.

The young people we spoke to all felt that would be a bad idea. Patrick was adamant, “No. We don’t want the police hanging around. Its makes us feel more paranoid.

“My personal experience with the police is not good.”

Morgan agreed. “There are lots of issues with the police.”

“They stop you when you’re driving around,” said Aimee. “If you are in a car then they will search you. But they don’t come round here.”

James explained that if you were “sensible” you could avoid harassment from the police.

“We don’t usually see the police around the estate. But if we go out to the shops they will stop you if you are wearing a hoodie.

“If you are dressed sensible, the chances are they won’t stop you.”

They said that they had to be careful not to wander into the wrong areas.

“It’s always harder for boys,” said Wonu. “There are loads of ‘ends’ the boys have to avoid.”

Pointing to a scar that runs down the right side of his face, Patrick said, “I got rushed when I went into another area. They cut me.”

Asked why so many young people carry knives, they all agreed it was out of fear. The majority of crime is against young people.

“I have a friend who carries a knife, but he does it for protection,” Morgan said. “That’s the main reason. Unless you are dumb or mad and want to go around killing people, you carry a knife to protect yourself.”

Patrick said, “People carry knives because it’s not fair around here. I don’t carry a knife, but we worry about someone jacking [stealing] your phone.”

For James, being part of a gang is a form of protection:

“We don’t hang around in groups for nothing. There’s people that walk about in the estate that we don’t know. If they see us as a group then you can be sure they’ll cool out and not start nothing.”

“You got to listen in case there are rumours of fights or trouble brewing – you don’t want to realise that there is trouble too late. It ain’t safe if you are on your own.”

Only Aimee has managed to find a job. Natasha tried to get work as a cleaner, but has had no luck. For the boys even the chance of getting a job seems out of the question.

Morgan said, “The only way to get money is to work for yourself. No one will give you a job.”

“There is a general shortage of money,” said Aimee.

Patrick said, “We are bored. There is nothing to do. We would like entertainment. The youth club is rubbish, there’s no equipment.”

James said, “The youth club is nothing, it’s broke. We do nothing.

We want something. But they don’t give a fuck about Hackney and they don’t give a fuck about us.”

Partick added, “I just want to be alive in ten years, get some money, get a car and maybe a house. Maybe there’s chance of that.”

“The thing I want most out of life is to get out of Hackney,” James said. “I want to live somewhere more relaxed.”

On the Morningside estate – James, Aimee and Morgan  (Pics:

On the Morningside estate – James, Aimee and Morgan (Pics: Angela Stapleford)

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