Pubdate: Sun, 21 Mar 2004
Source: Sunday Telegraph (UK)
Copyright: Telegraph Group Limited 2004
Authors: David Bamber and Mark Foxwell


The murder rate in London has doubled in 12 months to reach one of its
highest levels ever, according to the most recent Home Office
statistics, which have been leaked to the Telegraph.

In the final three months of last year there were 61 murders in the
capital, compared with just 31 in the same quarter, the previous year.
The figure is the highest total for the last three months of any year,
according to the Metropolitan Police's published figures. In the final
three months of 2000, for example, there were only 40 murders, while
in the same period of 2001 and 2002 there were 43 and 31

A year-on-year comparison between the murder rate in 2003 and that in
2002 is not available because the Metropolitan Police is currently
"revising" its figures for the first four months of last year. The
total, however, is expected to be significantly up on 2002.

Senior officers fear that a dramatic increase in the use of guns,
particularly in battles between gangs competing over the trade in
drugs, is the prime cause of the sharp rise in the number of deaths.

Other explanations include an increase in drive-by shootings and of
murders committed for no other reason than that the killer perceives
that personal or family "honour" has in some way been impugned by the
victim. The increased use of guns by criminals has caused concern at
the Home Office, which fears that the rise in the murder rate could
overshadow a general decrease in overall crime figures that are due to
be announced next month.

Norman Brennan, a Metropolitan Police constable who chairs the Victims
of Crime Trust pressure group, said that renewed efforts to halt the
increase in murders were essential.

"We need urgent action to stem this tide. Behind each murder there is
a tragic story of a family left behind, children left fatherless and
wives who are now widows," he said.

"Gun crime and murder are two of the crimes that make people most
scared to leave their homes. The fact that the rate has doubled will
cause alarm and anxiety."

Clive Elliott, the operations director of Protect the Protector, an
organisation that campaigns on behalf of police officers, said: "We
have been anticipating this for some time. London is becoming out of
control. When you consider that the average sentence for murder is
only 12 years and nine months, you can see why people think they can
get away with it."

One serving officer said: "We have seen a rise in drive-by shootings
and in 'honour killings'. Some 'honour killings' can be as simple as a
road-rage incident that gets out of hand or a gangster taking revenge
against someone because he thinks his sister has been snubbed.

"The crimes are getting more brutal and the trend in recent months is
highly worrying."

The latest figures show that the worst areas for murders are the north
London boroughs of Hackney and Haringey and the southern boroughs of
Lewisham and Croydon.

The death of Anthony Robinson, 28, in Crystal Palace, south London,
last October exemplifies the type of killing with which the police are
routinely having to deal. Mr Robinson left his mother's house at 9pm
on October 22 and drove his Fiat Punto towards a road junction. He was
forced to stop by an oncoming dark-coloured saloon car and, when he
got out of his car, was shot in the chest by the other driver at close
range. Mr Robinson was taken to King's College Hospital, where he was
pronounced dead.

Rebecca May, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Police, said: "We cannot
say why these statistics have gone up." 
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