Vox Pops: What’s the best way to tackle gang crime in Brixton?

We think the debate over at Shepherd’s Bush Blog is one we should be having more openly in Brixton too, so we’ve asked some locals (and even one Shepherds Bush resident on Brixton Rd) about what they think to open up debate here. Please do add your own comments.

Interviews by Kaye Wiggins and Zoe Jewell

Suriya Ramprasad, newsagent on Tulse Hill (asked not to be photographed)

“Working here at night, I don’t feel safe. People come in with guns and knives. They don’t care about other people and they have no respect. I don’t know what the solution is. The only thing that might help is more police on the streets, but they also need to stop the drugs problem because that is a big part of it.”

Lachie Gordon, bartender at the Hootananny

“I live in Oval and work in Brixton, and I honestly don’t think I’ve ever seen anything that looked like a gang, either when I’ve been at work or when I’ve been out at night. I remember reading that Clapham Road had been closed because of violence and I think that might have been gang-related but I’m not sure. Either way, it’s not something that affects me.”

Nabs, 35, Shepherd’s Bush resident

“It’s more about schooling – get them early and get them right! Teach children well, from about five or six, and that will make all the difference. They need to learn how to interact properly with people. It’s about them getting into the right mindset from the beginning.”

Manuel Mendes, local resident

“I don’t see too much trouble, but sometimes around the main roads it can be bad. We need to give young people more of a chance to get involved in activities to fill their time. It’s also about giving them a better education in schools.”

Artor, 37, Brixton resident

“Is there much gang crime? They should educate the youth. I’m not so aware of the problem here actually, but I think essentially young people should have guidance. All these feral teens – in a way it’s a waste of energy because there’s lots of talent among them but somehow their minds aren’t opened to it. I think it’s very important for parents to push their children to achieve.”

Katem Alebranche, local resident

“I think the problem is more about individual people getting drunk and causing trouble than about gangs, although I think there is some gang violence. But what can you do about it? Not much. I don’t think having more police is the right solution. You need to go into schools, talk to the kids and educate the parents as well.”


  1. Having grown up in a poor area which had astonishingly few social problems, I suggest two reasons:

    1. That the “good” children were not whisked away to fee-paying schools to get away from the “bad” ones (in Scotland everyone tends to go to “the local school”) so there were pupils around who had aspirations wider than what might go on a couple of streets away in a few hours’ time;

    2. Possibly as a a consequence of 1, learning was respected, however obtusely. President Obama put his finger on it far more eloquently than I can: “… children can’t achieve unless we raise their expectations and turn off the television sets and eradicate the slander that says a black youth with a book is acting white” (the famous speech to the Democratic National Convention in 2004).

  2. Having lived in and around the area for a while, I have had only a few times when i have felt unsafe and potentially at risk of being caught up in beef between groups.
    One of these times i was actually in a store when a fight broke out between two groups. It was only when i went to run out of the store to avoid it, that i realised the staff had locked the doors so the groups would be still there when the police attended. Having nowhere else to go, i then ran to the back of the store but the brawling went on for a while before i managed to get out of the shop. Felt extremely unsafe from 1) risk of injury through an inability to remove myself from the area and 2) potential for weapons to be produced and 3) potentially seeing something that i would then feel compelled to tell the police about.
    The issue of drugs in Brixton needs to be addressed if there is to be any impact on the gang culture, and education in schools (primary age and upwards) about this, Brixton does tend to have a strong sense of community in my view but this needs to be strengthened and encouraged further. If people feel part of a family/culture/community, they may be less inclined to look for these things through other means like the sense of this they get through being involved in a gang. I love Brixton and love to spend time there. My husband doesn’t, and worries about me being there at times.

  3. I don’t see too much trouble, but I perceive a threat at night time. I’ve just come back from a year in Sri Lanka where there is no youth trouble at all. The family is an incredibly strong influence on the lives of young people there and they look after their children. That’s to say they protect them, but they teach them moral values and they discipline them equally. They lead by example. Perhaps that’s where we could do more for our children?

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