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Friends mourn the death of Hani Solomon, 18, who was stabbed outside Parsons Green tube station, London on February 11. Photo: PA/Alamy

The number of street homicides where young people – and particularly young Black people – are the victims or suspects is rising, according to the latest official UK government figures.

Of the 695 murder victims in England and Wales overall between April 2019 and March 2020 recorded by the Office of National Statistics, 142 were aged between 16-24, making it the most common age range. The number of young homicide victims has risen by more than 60 percent in five years, more than any other age group. 

Black people were five times more likely to be victims of homicide in 2019/20 than white people, an increase of 68 percent compared to the first half of the decade. They were also four times more likely to be victims of homicide than other ethnic minorities. The rate of Black people being murdered was on average 49.5 per million over the last three years, compared to an average of 29.5 per million between 2011 and 2014.

Over a third of all homicide victims aged 16-24 were Black. There were 105 Black murder victims in 2019/20, the highest number for nearly two decades. Half of Black murder victims were aged 16-24, compared to 38 percent in 2010. 

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Between 2019/20, four in 10 convicted male homicide suspects were aged 16-24. One in five convicted suspects were Black, a rate seven times the general population. London had the highest rate of homicides, accounting for one in five murders in England and Wales.

The signs are that those being killed – and killing – on Britain’s streets are increasingly likely to be teenagers. Analysis by VICE World News into murders of teenagers over the last 12 months, a period after today’s official data release, paints a grim picture around young people’s involvement in homicide.

Since October alone, 13 teenagers of various ethnicities have been murdered on the streets, including a 12-year-old, a 13-year-old and five 15-year-olds. Many of these killings have also involved teenage suspects. 

In the most recent incident, 16-year-old Drekwon Patterson was chased and stabbed by a gang of youths in Wembley, north west London on February 18. A day before,  a cab driver was stabbed to death in Hackney, north London. Two 15-year-olds and a 17-year-old have since been charged with his murder.  

On January 25, Romario Opia, 15, was stabbed to death on his way to a fish and chip shop in Archway, north London. A 17-year-old has been charged with Opia’s murder, which was the third murder of a teenager in England in a four-day period. Anas Mezenner, 17 was fatally knifed by a gang in Haringey, north London on January 21, the same day schoolboy Keon Lincoln, 15, was stabbed to death in Birmingham. Two boys, aged 14 and 15 have been charged with his murder.  

Just three days into the new year, Olly Stephens, 13, was stabbed to death in a park in Reading. A girl, 13 and two boys aged 13 and 14, have been charged with his murder. The killing received huge media coverage not just because of his young age, but because Olly was white and died in a middle class neighbourhood. Only a few weeks before that, 12-year-old schoolboy Robert Buncis was stabbed in his neck, chest and stomach in a park in Boston, Lincolnshire. A boy, 14, has been charged with his murder.   

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During 2020 at least 20 teenagers were murdered, including a flurry of five killed in London during March.

“The different rates of homicide according to sex, age and ethnicity, are the result of political choices,” said Richard Garside, Director of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies.

“It’s not written in the stars that some groups will be murdered more than other groups. The much higher rates of violent death among young black people speak volumes about the way black lives continue to be systematically devalued by politicians, both national and local.”

UK Minister for Crime and Policing, Kit Malthouse, commented: “Too many young lives are being needlessly lost. We are working closely with the police and others to stop this senseless bloodshed, particularly as COVID restrictions are eased over coming months.

“We are making sure the police have the resources and support they need, including bolstering their ranks with 20,000 new officers. At the same time, the Government is investing millions into Violence Reduction Units to tackle the root causes of violent crime, while our £200 million Youth Endowment Fund supports vital projects that steer young people away from a life of crime.”

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