Four deaths in two months leaves borough reeling
Police and local officials say they are continuing to work together to reduce violent crime following the bloodiest few weeks for Waltham Forest in recent memory.
Four people were killed in the borough between mid-February and early April, the same number as was recorded over the previous two years. Two of the victims were young men, with fears of a ‘postcode war’ taking place between gangs in north-east London.
In an effort to quell the violence police implemented Section 60 powers for short periods of time in March and April, authorising officers to stop and search anyone without prior justification.
In Walthamstow over a three-week period there were 122 stops made using this power, resulting in 13 arrests for knife possession, drug offences, and theft.
An additional ten police officers were also deployed specifically to tackle violent crime across Waltham Forest and Newham, whose police forces were recently combined to form a single unit.
Explaining the action being taken, Assistant Chief Superintendent Tania Coulson said: “Section 60 is an intelligence-led pre-authorised power to stop and search. My officers have been on the streets using this power really effectively, seizing knives, stopping cars of young men carrying weapons, and making arrests.
“As a community, we can all help to tackle the problem of violent crime. There are members of our community who do have information about our young people carrying knives on our streets. Tell us, we will take action.”
In February the Echo revealed the number of violent crimes using an offensive weapon in Waltham Forest had nearly doubled over the past six years, with 218 such cases recorded in 2017.
So far in 2018, four people have been killed; 48-year-old Mark Smith was found dead on 16th February in Warren Road, Chingford, after suffering multiple injuries; 20-year-old Joseph William-Torres died after being found with a gunshot injury in Essex Close, Walthamstow, on 14th March; 41-year-old Jermaine Johnson died from stab wounds in Vallentin Road, Walthamstow, on 19th March; and 16-year-old Amaan Shakoor died in hospital the day after being found with gunshot injuries on 2nd April outside Walthamstow Leisure Centre in Markhouse Road.
Two boys aged 15 and 17 have been charged with the murder of Joseph William-Torres, a 38-year-old woman has been charged with the murder of Mark Smith, and a 17-year-old has been charged with the murder of Jermaine Johnson.
Police are still appealing for witnesses to the murder of Amaan Shakoor. At time of going to press, two people had been arrested but not charged. Detective Chief Inspector Gary Holmes said: “I would urge anyone out there with information to please contact us or Crimestoppers anonymously. This murder has left Amaan’s family completely bereft, and needing answers – someone out there knows who committed this terrible crime.”
The teenager attended Kelmscott School. Mohammed Shakoor, Amaan’s father, said the family was “devastated” over his death and described him as “a wonderful son”.
Martin Esom, chief executive of Waltham Forest Council, said the local authority was doing all it could to keep people safe. He said: “Our neighbourhoods officers are working directly with young people and their families in the community. Their efforts to gather information about what is happening on the street are invaluable.
“Additionally, youth offending team officers are working seven-days-a-week keeping at-risk young people engaged in positive activities. We work with police colleagues to take action against anti-social behaviour when it happens, where it happens.
“We have been working with London South Bank University to prepare an in-depth gang prevention strategy over the last several months. The report will be published in May and will form the basis for an action plan to target the gang-leaders who create misery on our streets.
“Residents should know that the safety of their families and their loved ones is our number one priority.”
Last month Walthamstow MP Stella Creasy attended a City Hall summit on the rise of violence across London, at which the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and Home Secretary joined representatives from the Metropolitan Police. She has called for a dedicated inquiry and also wrote an open letter directly to the Home Secretary. Stella wrote: “I urgently request resourcing support for our local police and youth services to enable them to address the causes of violence, and in particular to investigate the growing access by young children to firearms.”
Chingford MP Iain Duncan Smith has also called on Mayor of London Sadiq Khan to take a lead on preventing gang crime. He said: “The key to success is combining police enforcement tactics with intervention and prevention programmes with a clear message that violence must stop.”
Anyone with information the murder of Amaan Shakoor is asked to contact the incident room on 020 8345 1570 or via 101 quoting reference 6727/02 April. To give information anonymously via Crimestoppers:
Call 0800 555 111