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Calvin Bungisa murder: Fresh calls to join march through London

Fresh calls for London Mayor Sadiq Khan to finally visit Kentish Town and Gospel Oak area

06 April, 2019 — By Samantha Booth

Sadiq Khan was criticised for not visiting Kentish Town in the wake of last year’s murders 

CAMPAIGNERS are urging anybody moved by another death on Camden’s streets to get involved and demand more action from those in power.

With the “Operation Shutdown” march through central London planned for April 17, there were claims that the tragedies of stab murders were rooted in cuts to public spending of the austerity years.

Elaine Donnellon, who is helping to organise the demonstration, said the government, City Hall and local authorities need to start talking to those directly involved, such as bereaved families and young people.

She said: “This public health crisis cannot be just tackled in a combative, policing way. The government must act to give the communities more funding, allowing the communities to provide the more holistic elements needed to prevent and intervene and disrupt this detrimental behaviour, including mental health, housing, employability support, and decent opportunities.”

Ms Donnellon said of the government’s “knife crime summit”, held this week, that it appeared “responsibility was being shirked. Home Secretary Sajid Javid had announced that teachers, NHS workers and police officers in England and Wales could be held accountable for failing to spot violent crime among young people, under new government plans.

Ms Donnellon said: “Until we receive more funding and the reversal of council and police cuts, we are fighting a losing battle.” The trail of violence has affected areas across London, with Camden suffering a large number of cases.

This week’s killing was just hundreds of metres away from where Sadiq Aadam Mohammed, 20, was fatally stabbed in Malden Road in February 2018, on the same evening 17-year-old Abdikarim Hassan was stabbed to death in Bartholomew Road.

In February this year, Bright Akinleye, 22, was stabbed to death in Euston, while bloody footsteps were left on a pavement on Albany Street after two men were stabbed in March. Extra police patrols were carried out around the Regent’s Park estate after a man was killed near Regent’s Park Mosque last week. There are understood to have been other cases of “near misses” which did not lead to a fatality.

The death of Mr Bungisa has led to renewed calls for Mayor of London Sadiq Khan to visit Kentish Town to meet affected families. Mr Khan did not come to NW5 after last year’s Camden murders. He announced a capital-wide violence reduction unit (VRU) last year, treating the issue as a public health matter.

Terry Ellis, an ex-armed robber who is working to set up a “Band of Brothers” group in Camden aiming to give role models for young men, believes people are becoming desensitised to seeing frequent news of stabbings. He said: “What actually works is what we are going to do and working with communities and giving them an interest and something to talk and be part of.”

Terry Ellis

Mick Farrant MBE, the former Queen’s Crescent Community Centre chair, said: “What we need now is a youth safety strategy for the [Gospel Oak] area which includes the long-term availability of low or no rent, suitable premises to deliver ‘prevent’ youth programmes. “Premises are essential if the local voluntary agencies running such projects are to be able to continue to obtain funding from charities.”

Labour cabinet councillor Abdul Hai, the council chief overseeing young people’s services in the borough, insisted the Town Hall is doing “extensive work”.

But he said: “One must not forget, and this is not an excuse on our part, you have to look at the way we operate. Police numbers are the lowest since 1985, there have been cuts to youth services, to families, cuts to local government, you look across the whole spectrum. We have a perfect storm. We have spent two-and-a-half years talking about Brexit. I’ve been saying all along that there are people being murdered in our streets and we have got to come together.”

Some new youth projects, funded by £500,000 of council cash, are expected to begin this summer. It comes out of the Camden Youth Safety Taskforce which was set up in December 2017 in response to a significant increase in youth violence. A report published last year made 17 recommendations on how to address the issues in Camden.

A spokeswoman for the Mayor of London said: “Sadiq regularly meets with bereaved families and friends of victims in private, if that is something they feel will help at such a difficult time for them, and has made this offer to affected families in Kentish Town.”

A Home Office spokesman said: “We are working to tackle the concerning rise in violence through our Serious Violence Strategy. This year, the government has increased funding for the police by around £1billion, including council tax and new serious violence funding, and we have also committed £220m to community projects that work with young people to steer them away from violent crime.”

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