169 London teenagers killed in a decade: can prosperity prevent murder?

The link isn't exhaustive, but more deaths have occurred in more deprived areas. 

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“A teenager has been stabbed to death in east London,” the BBC reported yesterday. The murder was the 169th of a London teenager in the past decade.

It’s easy to glide over such simple statistics. But Citizens Report, a site which has spent years tracking the data, has a picture and name of almost every one. As with prisoners, the vast majority were male – 88 per cent. But 20 – or two a year – were women. A fifth of all those murdered were under 16.

A dozen were beaten to death. 32 were shot. Most – 125 – were stabbed. But where were they killed? And does the poverty of an area make murder more likely?

At first glance, the murders are clustered around east-central…

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…and south-central London.

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And the most deadly boroughs are in those areas: Hackney and Newham north of the river and Southwark and Lambeth to the south. At least ten teenagers have died in two other boroughs: Enfield far to the north, and Croydon well to the south. Those may sound vaguely familiar as areas at the lower end of the housing market, but are they London’s most deprived? Here are the murders plotted on a detailed ward-by-ward map of London, colour-coded by deprivation.

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Is there a relationship between deprivation and deaths? There appears to be some link: just over a third of the variation in death rates is explained by deprivation.

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Now causation doesn’t mean causality. Any sententious statistician will tell you as much. In this case, they would mean that deprivation isn't necessarily the cause of murders – a different, unidentified cause could be.

No teenagers have been murdered in six London boroughs, and five of those are among the city’s ten least deprived.

And as this site entertainingly shows, many completely unrelated things can be shown to correlate (for a decade deaths by asphyxiation have risen in line with US spending on science & tech). But no teenagers have been murdered in six London boroughs, and five of those are among the city’s ten least deprived. No more than four teenagers have been killed in any of those ten.

In contrast, the two most deprived boroughs – Newham and Hackney – are two of the four most deadly, and at least five people have been murdered in each of the ten most deprived.

There is a link, but it is only a starting point for any analysis. The team at Citizens Report went on to test the relationship between ward-level deprivation and deaths, and were surprised at how little of one existed. But they are using the location of deaths as the only barometer of where a murder “took place”.

There is a link between deprivation and these deaths, but it is only a starting point for any analysis.

The wards are so small – rarely encompassing more than a few streets – that murders in one ward could plausibly have really been the end of a conflict that began in another.

A borough-level analysis irons these differences out. This conclusion is not exhaustive but it is inescapable: the best way to prevent another decade of death is to improve the boroughs these children grew up in.

Explore the dormant Citizens Report for wit and iconoclasm. (“Many say a robust anti-gang approach through policing is essential - you have to fight fire with fire. Most people who deal with fires say the best thing to put out a fire is water.”)

Harry Lambert is special correspondent at the New Statesman. He tweets at @harrytlambert.

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