'Air of Menace' in London as Feral Youths Thrive in 'Ungoverned Space' of Social Media
Tottenham, a working class district of North London, was the scene of an all too familiar crime when a teenager was stabbed to death by a 16-year-old boy, who was sentenced onFriday, January 26. Why has knife crime risen in England and Wales and what is going on in places like Tottenham?

By Chris Summers
Photo: CC0
Life in the shadow of wealth
On the skyline, a bright, new edifice is growing - cranes, cherry-pickers and tiny ant-like figures in high-visibility jackets beavering away in an attempt to deliver the project on time.

Tottenham Hotspur are one of England's most famous Premier League clubs, and their new stadium is estimated to be costing the club around £800 million (US$1 billion).

The club hopes it will be ready for the new season in August and superstars like Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Hugo Lloris will be parading their talents there, being paid around £200,000 (US$270,000) a week.

Photo: Sputnik, Chris Summers
But most people in Tottenham can only dream of earning such sums. Many subsist entirely on welfare payments.

According to the 2011 Census, there were 550 households in Haringey's Tottenham Green ward with dependent children and no adults in employment – 9.3 percent of all households.

It is one of the most diverse communities in Britain, with migrants having moved here from numerous countries.

In 2011 those describing themselves the Census as white British had fallen to just 19.3 percent, from 29.7 percent a decade earlier, and the Muslim population had risen to 17.7 percent, from 15.7 percent.
A woman and her children walk past a mural in Tottenham © Sputnik, Chris Summers
Right opposite the new stadium is an Ethiopian and Eritrean café and nearby is a shop offering a courier service to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Further down the Tottenham High Road are Turkish and Kurdish cafés, Ghanaian restaurants, Bulgarian barbers, Nigerian churches and Romanian grocers.

The Tottenham High Road is part of the A10, a major arterial road which runs north from the City of London, through proletarian Hackney and Tottenham, up to the largely middle class suburb of Enfield, out through affluent Hertfordshire and all the way to the university city of Cambridge.

Tynemouth Road, just off the A10, was where Osman Sharif met his death on June 6 last year.
Jenny, who lives only yards from the murder scene, said Osman and his killer, Abdulrahman Ali, were like many of the "feral" children she regularly saw in the area.

"There are a lot of what you might call naughty kids here. On Fireworks Night (November 5) a group of 16- and 17-year-olds were throwing fireworks into people's gardens. I rang the police and they just said they were aware of it and 'thanks very much for your phonecall'," Jenny told Sputnik.

"I've been here 15 years and it's never been this bad," said Jenny, who said matters seem to have got worse since more middle class people moved into the area.

"An area becomes gentrified and there's money about and trouble seems to soon follow," she told Sputnik.

Photo: Sputnik, Chris Summers
'People do care'
"Personally I think there is more menace here than in the past. You can feel it in the atmosphere, an air of menace," said Jenny.

She said teenagers as well as groups of homeless and Eastern European men often congregated on Tottenham Green, smoking very strong cannabis.

Another neighbor, Karen, said that after Osman's murder there were a lot of floral tributes left at the scene and she saw parents talking to their children about what had happened and overheard them trying to teach them to learn from it.

"People do care. There is a community here and people do talk to their neighbors," she told Sputnik.

I asked Karen what she had heard about what triggered the murder.

"I heard it was a fight over a girl, something to do with social media. The boy who was losing the fight pulled out a knife. That's just what I heard," Karen told Sputnik.

Like most street gossip, it had an element of truth but it was wide of the mark.

The fistfight she was referring to was between two other boys and had been sparked by someone posting a video on Snapchat of a fight involving one of the boys' girlfriends.

That fight had indeed taken place only a few yards away on the grass at Tottenham Green on the same day that Osman died but it had broken up without either party suffering serious injuries.
Banter Most Deadly
Abdulrahman Ali, who will spend at least 15 years behind bars © Metropolitan Police
But the disagreement which led to Osman's death developed, according to the killer, because Osman became offended by some "banter" on a Snapchat groupchat and had threatened him with a hammer.

Abdulrahman Ali had claimed self-defense and said Osman had somehow run onto his blade. The jury did not believe his outlandish version of events and last month he was convicted of murder.

Osman and Abdulrahman were not from different gangs, nor were they fighting over drug money or territory.

They had been friends up until the day before.

But one is now dead and the other will spend at least 15 years behinds bars after being detained during Her Majesty's Pleasure.

Sentencing Osman's killer, Judge Nicholas Hilliard, the Common Serjeant of London - a legal office which dates back to 1291 - also lifted restrictions on naming Ali and said by doing so he hoped it would have a deterrent effect on others carrying knives.

Ali who wore a dark suit and sat in the well of the court for most of the trial next to his mother, who wore a black burka.

"You do still have a future and it is very much up to you what you make of it," Judge Hilliard told Ali, who wore a black Adidas tracksuit, with white trim, and showed no emotion as he was taken away to start his prison sentence.
Somali women walk past a mosque in Tottenham ©Sputnik, Chris Summers
Osman and his attacker were both from the Somali community.

Ali lived with his parents, his two sisters and a brother, at a house near Bruce Grove station in Tottenham but spent much of his time on Snapchat groupchats.

The court heard Ali had been excluded from his primary school, his secondary school and a college and had been involved in numerous fights.

His education had also been "interrupted" when his family took him to Somalia and Yemen.

In June this year Ali was fasting during the month of Ramadan.

He told his trial he broke his fast around 9pm and then went to a local mosque for prayers, returning home around midnight with some takeaway food.

Ali, Osman and several other boys were chatting on Snapchat but the banter turned ugly when Ali and Osman began discussing who was more "driller" and "certified" - street terms, meaning tougher.

Ali told the court he sent several laughter emojis to Osman, mocking his claims to be tougher but his friend reacted angrily and sent him a private message on Snapchat: "Come and meet me now. I'm going to kill you."

Again he responded with laughter emojis. The following day the pair met up and the Snapchat dispute turned deadly.

When I visited Tottenham I popped into a small café in Bruce Grove where several men were gathered, drinking coffee, eating snacks and chatting to each other affably in their impenetrable language.

They were friendly and keen to help when I explained I was trying to find out about Osman's murder and its possible causes.

"If they were proper Somalis they wouldn't be doing it. That problem is just in this country," Axmed told Sputnik.
Murder Victim Osman Sharif © Metropolitan Police
He said Somali parents were usually very strict but sometimes they did not speak English so when they get a letter from the school saying their son is misbehaving they are often unaware because the child might lie to them about the nature of the letter.

"Girls are doing better than boys at school but there are a lot of Somali boys who are doing well, they are doing A Levels and even going on to university," Axmed told Sputnik.

Warsame said some local schools discriminated against Somali boys and assumed they would be academically poor.

"They will kick boys out of school and if they go on the street that is when they get into trouble," said Warsame.

Warsame said some of the teenagers could be seen hanging around on the street at 1am or 2am and he believed there was a need for a 10pm curfew on young people.

But it was unclear how a curfew would have helped Osman, who was stabbed to death at 5pm on a bright summer's evening.
The trial heard that after the murder Ali changed his clothes at a relative's home on the Broadwater Farm estate - scene of an infamous riot in 1985 in which a police officer was killed - before his family persuaded him to hand himself in to the police.

Clasford Sterling MBE, a youth and community developer on the Broadwater Farm estate, said he was worried about what was happening to young people in the area.

"Tell me where a 16- to 21-year-old with no money can go now to enjoy a social life apart from on the street corner where there is the temptation of drugs, knife and gun crime," Mr. Sterling told Sputnik.

Photo: Sputnik, Chris Summers
He said the "beef" between Osman and his killer clearly spiralled out of control.

"It's the law of the jungle. Kill or be killed. Once you get into that situation that is how it happens. If they were in an organized youth center it would never have come to that," Mr. Sterling told Sputnik.

Gwenton Sloley, a former gang member who now advises the Home Office and runs Crying Sons, which trains police forces on how to deal with young people and gangs, said social media was not being properly policed.

"If it's Twitter or Facebook they are up to date with it but they haven't invested much time in Snapchat or Periscope. It's like an alien world to the police. It's an ungoverned space and the young people are taking advantage of it all over the country," Mr. Sloley told Sputnik.

He said young people were far more likely to be using Snapchat or Periscope than Twitter, or even Facebook.
© Sputnik News, Chris Summers
Nationwide Epidemic
A victim impact statement by Osman's brother, Mohammed Abu-Bakr, was read out in court.

"The death of my greatly beloved younger brother has been a great tragedy. He was taken at such a young age and he had so much potential," said Mr. Abu-Bakr, who said Osman's younger brother "adored" and looked up to him.

He said Osman had a "bubbly and loving personality", loved playing football and computer games, acting and doing impressions and was studying the performing arts.

Mr. Abu-Bakr said his mother prays daily and believes "God has a plan" and she knows Osman is "in a better place".

Osman's murder was one of 37,443 knife crime offenses committed in England and Wales between September 2016 and September 2017,a rise of 21 percent on the previous year.

When those figures were revealed by the Office of National Statistics on Thursday, January 25, Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott said they were "truly shocking" and accused the government of being "complacent" about crime.

"The Tories are failing in a basic duty to protect the public," said Ms. Abbott.

Earlier this month, after four young people were stabbed to death on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day, the Deputy Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Sir Craig Mackey, issued a statement in which he reiterated the force's commitment to tackling knife crime.

"Tackling serious violence and knife crime in London remains a number one priority for the Met, but Londoners need to pull together to tackle this issue," he said.

"We need to find out why some young people think it is acceptable to carry knives, and this is where community organizations and local initiatives, charities, schools and educators, youth workers and families all have an important role to play in changing this mindset," added Sir Craig.

Clasford Sterling said society threw money at the problem once a crime had been committed, rather than spending money on young people to prevent them being drawn into crime in the first place.

"Idle minds will put themselves to bad ends. We have to provide money to stop it happening. If we can't find a solution we will have failed them," Mr. Sterling told Sputnik.
(L-R): A bust of black nationalist Marcus Garvey in the library in Tottenham, a plaque on the Town Hall where the late Labour MP Bernie Grant used to hold court, and the war memorial on Tottenham Green, only yards from the murder scene.

©Sputnik, Chris Summers
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