Boris Johnson admits north Westminster has gang problem

Mayor’s comments come as one former gang member says youngsters are enticed into violence by money

An ex-gang member is claiming that young people in Westminster can “get rich quick if they are prepared to fire a gun”.

His comments come just as London Mayor Boris Johnson concedes that there is a gang problem in the north of the borough.

The reformed man, who spent time in jail for firearm offences, is now involved in youth work in north Westminster. But he says the money involved in gang life is hard for young people to resist.

The man, who did not want to be named, said: “Ten years ago, it was knives being used in fights and guns were rarely used. But now the kids are buying guns to protect themselves.

“There are a lot of problems with kids kidnapping other kids and they are asking for �30,000, �50,000, �80,000 to get people back.

“There’s a lot of money being thrown around.

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“People want to make a statement and guns are readily available. If you have a gun and are prepared to fire it, then you can make a lot of money. It all comes back to money.”

Westminster has seen serious youth violence rise by 44 per cent in the past two years and the council launched its �1.5million

Your Choice gangs strategy last September. The programme targets children transferring from primary to secondary school.

“You have got to educate people and let them know that they are valued,” said the ex-gang member.

“Not just as rappers, or someone who can run fast or kick a ball, – but as someone who can contribute to society.

“You have to engage with people at a younger age because that’s when they are receptive.

“It won’t solve it because you never can solve it. But it’s a good place to start.”

Headteachers from across north Westminster held a summit meeting last week to discuss the gang problem after suspected gunshots were heard outside St Augustine’s High School in Maida Vale.

On a trip to Maida Vale on Tuesday, Mr Johnson said that north Westminster’s gang troubles “needed to turn around”.

He said: “There are other boroughs in London where a lot of progress has been made.

‘‘We have made huge strides forward and their gang problem is less acute now.

“But in north Westminster, there is an issue at the moment that really needs cracking down on.

“I can trot out the statistics about murder across the city, which is well down, and knife crime, which is well down, and crime overall has dropped considerably.

“But in this neighbourhood, we need to turn it around.”