Life in London’s knife crime capital, where ‘terrified’ workers see robberies ‘every day’

People who work in the area of ​​London with the most knife crime have said they are “scared” and witness robberies “every day”. The Metropolitan Police Service says there were 277 crimes involving a blade in the Westminster West End Town Center Safety Neighborhood Team (SNT) area between January 2023 and January 2024.

This is equal to 67.6 per 1,000 inhabitants. Meanwhile, 197 knife murders were recorded in Croydon Town Center and 190 in the Met’s Oxford Street, Regent Street and Bond Street SNT over the same time period.

Mufeed Musthafa, 27 years old, has been working for a year and a half at a small grocery store on Poland Street. He told MyLondon he saw it ‘fully masked’ men trying to steal a car on Oxford Street. Mufeed added that in Tottenham Court Road he noticed a person driving “looking normal” but “following everyone and giving information to fully masked men” before “stealing a phone”.

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The Met says there were 277 crimes involving a blade in the Westminster West End Town Center Safety Neighborhood Team (SNT) area between January 2023 and January 2024.(Image: Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon)

In one hour, he claimed to have seen five phones ripped off. Mufeed said: “If you try to stop them, they’ll use a knife or something. You don’t know – that’s why I didn’t try. It’s definitely scary, it’s not safe here. After that I didn’t pick up my phone in the street or in the store.”

Sonal Patel, 45, worked for two-and-a-half years at a newsstand in Great Marlborough Street. She said: “So many people pull out phones and wallets. Under 18s take so much of my stuff and then disappear.”

She added that the thieves appeared to be only 14 or 15 years old. Ms Patel also described seeing people having their phones “ripped off” as they walked. These bike-based device poachers, she added, work in the morning because it’s “very quiet.”

But they also go out in the evening, and “sometimes it’s in the afternoon,” Ms Patel added. “People are now scared,” she said, “they can’t go out here.”

“I’m alone here – I can’t go after them”

“It’s so easy. I’m alone here; I can’t go (after the thieves when they target the stall). There’s so much crime – I don’t know why.” Her stall has CCTV cameras but Ms Patel argued there was no point in having them and no one witnessing an incident helps.

Ms Patel says youths who look like they are 14 or 15 steal things from her stall(Image: Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon)

Madison Lilley, 19, who has worked at the manager’s hair salon on Poland Street for four years, said “There were definitely incidents” in the area as he saw “police cars and stuff”.

She added that the theft is affecting her job. Madison said, “We have quite a few people coming in here and taking things off the shelves right now. Not often, but it does happen. A few times a month, I’d probably say.” She detailed that “groups of women” were talking to someone at the front desk to distract the staff.

A 27-year-old man who works for a business on Poland Street recalled how he had been in a nearby restaurant when someone was stabbed inside. He recalled: “Tthe hat was pretty scary, but I think it was a unique thing.”

He described the incident as a “blur” but recalls the venue being “locked down” and “everyone told to leave”. The gentleman, who did not want to be named, added that the thieves operate “on bicycles” with people’s phones being “taken off in an instant”. He said, “I mean, it slowly builds up over time.”

“It slowly builds up over time”

A woman called Laura, 31, who did not want to give her middle name, has worked in the area for several years but lives in Wimbledon. Of the knife crime figure, she said: “I’m not really surprised; it’s london I think it’s difficult. I think there’s a recession, it’s causing people to act in ways they wouldn’t normally act.

“I work here and when I come in at four in the morning for events, there are always some interesting types cycling around looking at your phone.”

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A restaurant worker in the area, who wished to remain anonymous, described how in the morning when he comes to work, the streets are sometimes closed “because of crime at night”. He added: “Robberies, they happen every day.”

Asked if he was surprised by the policing figure in the area, he said: “Not really, to be honest, given that the quality of life is going down in the UK. There are so many unemployed people staying at home on benefits – it’s normal. .” The gentleman then claimed that three years ago, restaurant staff caught a thief and detained him for the police.

Then “they waited three hours,” he says, for officers to come “pick them up.” The local worker added: “Even now we have thieves in our place all the time.”

“Many people have nothing”

Alison Giveny, 39, has been assistant manager at Schott Music in Great Marlborough Street for seven years. The business itself has been around for more than a century. She said: “I haven’t witnessed anything personally but where I live in Lewisham someone was stabbed to death at the end of my road about a month ago. Someone told me it’s a personal thing, it’s not someone running with him. a knife, but still stab someone, right?

“The thing I see the most is homelessness. I think it’s gone up a lot — a lot of people have nothing.” In particular, Ms Giveny noticed a man outside Marks and Spencer giving a ‘running commentary’ on people entering and leaving the store.”

She added: “I see thefts too. People are hungry, aren’t they?” Security guards “sometimes run after people,” Ms Giveny said. She added: “People are very hungry. They wouldn’t do this, would they, if they had other options?”

The assistant manager also mentioned that her store had been robbed by the Center Point charity pot and, “a long time ago,” someone had stolen the store’s front door handle. In addition, Ms Giveny described a “dubious corner” nearby that she avoids at night. This is because they “smell funny” and are often people with their hoods up.

Schott Music manager Andrew Dunbar-Nasmith(Image: Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon)

“Police are always around that area,” she added. Meanwhile, Schott Music manager Andrew Dunbar-Nasmith, 60, recalls a police marquee going up on Poland Street “a few months ago”. But overall, he said he was “not aware” of a large amount of crime.

According to the BBC, a chef appeared in court in 2022 accused of stabbing a colleague to death during an argument at a Korean restaurant near Oxford Street. Li Hunan, 60, was charged with murdering Il Sung, 58, at the kitchen where they worked in Poland Street, Soho.

A spokesman for the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, told MyLondon last week: “The Mayor has set out comprehensive targets and actions he will take to continue to reduce knife crime in London and make the capital safer for everyone the world in the next four years. These include recruiting an extra 1,300 neighborhood police officers and PCSOs to make communities safer and tackle knife crime, investing more in youth clubs to help thousands of young Londoners away from the dangers of gangs and crime, doubling of reducing violence against women. and girls with free legal advice for victims of sexual abuse and supporting MET to achieve the reforms our police service needs and our city deserves.”

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