Friday, 14 January 2011

6 people stabbed / shot on Vassall Road last night - When we needed the Big Society, were you there?

It's slightly south of the SE11 area, but I was horrified to read the SLP report of 6 people shot/stabbed on Vassall Road yesterday at about 21:30 yesterday.  The SLP also state that the youngest victim was 14, but this contradicts the following from Stockwell Park Neighbourhood Watch.

Stockwell Park Neighbourhood Watch have stated that two of the victims were stabbed at about 20:41 on Cowley Road.  An ambulance was called, and whilst the crew were attending, two youths on bikes cycled past and firde several shots on a hand gun.  Consequently, four additional people were injured.  None of the injuries are life threatening and the ambulance crew remained unharmed.  After initial assessment, the police believe the incident was gang related and that none of the victims were "neutral".  (I take that to mean that they were innocent bystanders).  The victims are said to be within the age range of 16-18.  No suspects have been detained and police presence in the area will remain high to deter further violence.

I regularly defend this part of South London as a safe place to live against voices to the contrary.  Violence around here is sporadic and usually not against innocent bystanders, but that doesn't excuse it. Sometimes  the distance between Cleaver Square and Vassall Road seems huge.  Lambeth Council currently spend money on youth and anti-gang activities, and yet such funding is at risk in our new Big Society.  Does the funding make any difference?  After each stabbing or shooting, I always ask, "what can we do?".  And I'll keep asking it because I don't want us to stop being shocked. 

As residents, bloggers, commuters and workers, what are our options to prevent young people from turning to crime?  What do we do about the disparity between the haves and have nots?  Is it disparity that is the problem here?  Are the residents who live in relative poverty having a chance to meet the residents who are affluent?  Where is the forum in which we can discuss these issues?  We have neighbourhood groups and residents associations, blogs, and newspapers, but how often do we meet people who are different from us?  Is our response to stay in after dark and to keep our heads down when we walk along our streets?  Do we know the young people in our midst, and how might our neighbourhood be a community that shares its gifts?

I maintain that these stabbings and shootings are not what define our area.  We're defined by our friendliness and our openness to celebrate and share cultural differences.  We're defined by the number of community groups and "friends of" groups that are regularly set up in our midst.  And then something like this happens, and we talk of youth, gangs, drugs, opportunities and education, but I'm not sure if we're seeing any change.  When we needed the Big Society, were you there, were you there?

For an 18th January update on this incident, please continue reading at Stockwell News.


Sid Boggle said...

This whole Big Society thing is a con, words from a bullshitter supreme leading a government whose actions scream 'Thatcher'. And didn't she say there was no such thing as society? I think it's supposed to get people thinking about Small Government.

A 'Big Society' sounds all warm and inclusive and cuddly, but if you were a cynic you might wonder if its real intent is to push away those who rely on the state for a leg up, so services can be cut and the state shrunk down.

As for what defines SE11 - are we the sum of the things the middle classes like to engage in to develop civic pride? Or is there a synthesis of perspective across all the people who live here? I don't see investment in good quality social housing or the council estate view represented on the KOV agenda, for instance. Maybe we in social housing think it's all too posh. And if there's a shooting, did 'we' have it (in Kennington), or did 'they' (on an estate somewhere in Kennington)?

I dunno. Sometimes the sediment refuses to be stirred up...

Anonymous said...

I think the Big Society idea has merit. So, by the way, does Ed Milliband. The idea that perhaps Government cannot solve everything and be responsible for making people happy. It certainly didn't solve the problem of gang violence in the last Government, so why not give the idea of local communities, etc. finding a solution.

Oh yes, it is because a Conservative Government has said it. We do have to be prepared to accept that people from all parties occasionally do have good ideas.

Sid Boggle said...

@ Anon: But what does it mean? Gang violence being a case in point, how does a mixed community like Kennington (or more widely around Lambeth) develop the common ground and mechanisms to work across social/racial strata to find ways to encourage kids away from it?

Who would work on finding the funding for effective initiatives the council want to cut loose? Seems to me the people with most to gain are the ones least likely to have the skills and contacts to find partners outside of the governmental structures they're used to approaching.

Politics is politics, and the Coalition shows us that manifestos, platforms and policies are meaningless when a chance to run something is dangled. I'm not making any party political point. I remain to be convinced that 'Big Society' is something other than a way for Government to retrench and cut costs.

SE11 Lurker said...

@Sid It's places like London that make me question the wisdom of Big Society /if/ all that it involves is shrinking the state, without giving additional funding to charities or 3rd sector organisations or even to residents to help them run their own communities.

I hope that SE11 (or Kennington, Oval and Vauxhall) is the sum of the things that are important to build up common good. That's not to say that we'll all agree on what needs to be done to get there (or even on the vision), but it needs to be a lot more than the things the middle classes like to engage in. My frustration is where we go to even have the arguments in the first place.

It's interesting that you raise the KOV agenda. Last week at the meeting re. consultation on the VNEB, several people from VGERTA (who are members of KOV) came to question whether there'd still be a place for them if they had to pay 80% market of rents in an area which would be flooded by new properties. That's the only forum where I've heard that question raised. At a guess, I'd say KOV's agenda is dictated by its comunity group members (since it's just an umbrella organisation for local groups) and that they dictate the agenda. So if you were to ensure that all of the TRAs had a rep. turn up to KOV meetings, and make a case, they'd have a voice. Unfortunately, it's not that easy because the meetings are in the evenings, not everyone is free, there are issues of cultural difference and maybe some people think it's too posh or not their thing. Everybody (posh or not) has limitations on their time these days, but it's that time that is actually vital for community building. I don't know how to address it.

I claim that violence belongs to "all" of "us". It might take place on an estate or an alleyway, but it's a community responsibility.

Sid Boggle said...

@Lurker: Yes, I wonder if the 'beneficiaries' would be bite-sized single-issue homogenised communities - save a pub, save a library sort of issues.

There are some active and successful TRAs in KOV, and some estates where they can't get any momentum. Whether they think they get all they need from local area Housing Fora is a question I couldn't answer. Maybe there's a way to network or get some crossover. Maybe the Princes Councillors could facilitate it?

For me, the big issues in Kennington aren't really that pressing. We need pubs that serve better real ale, and we have to do something about all these hipster douchebags I'm seeing around the place... ;-)

AD said...

I don't claim to know what the answer is, as helping people - who don't seem to want it - is a challenge. But not one that should be overlooked.

Could something as simple as more lighting to those darker streets, or general beautification to certain areas be a good start?

Anonymous said...

What influence does kov actuaaly have? Why would a residents association use kov rather than lobby the council directly?

I don't understand the obsession with "class"

I suspect that the council can only affect crime rates at the margins. Obviously the council doesn't run the police service. And if there were a local solution to gang crime, surely it would have been tried in the last 30 years

simone said...

im serious yesterday i was with air cadets driving down the road when we saw the blood it was horrific there was so much of it for so long a distance and btw neutral mean not in gang activity which they were not neutral in other reports.

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