Sky News has spent months speaking with London’s fiercest gangs as part of an investigation into this year’s increase in gang-related violence.
Our freedom of information requests reveal almost half of murder victims and murder suspects in the capital are young black men – way out of proportion to London’s population, in which 13% are black.
This is a stark contrast to everywhere else in the UK, where the racial and age profile of murder victims and suspects reflects the demographic in those areas.
In our Line 18 special report, gang members from 410 in Brixton and the Woolwich Boys in southeast London warn Sky News they will continue their street war – and they don’t see an end to violence in the capital.
One gang member told Sky News: “This is the only life we know, we just have to keep doing it – there’s nothing else for us to do.
“I don’t even know what this war is about anymore. All I know is if I step out of my area people want to kill me, and if people come into mine, I want to kill them. It’s as simple as that.
“This war isn’t going to end. How can it? It’s too deep now.”
London’s gang war has had a drastic effect on the capital’s murder statistics.
There were 80 London murders in the first half of 2018, with more than 1,300 stabbings. The overwhelming majority of these are gang-related.
One of the many gang-related murders in London this year was the shooting of Rhyhiem Barton in May. The 17-year-old was gunned down in Kennington in south London.
The teenager was the lead rapper for drill group Moscow17 and he starred in music videos with hundreds of thousands of views on social media – making him a target for rival gangs.
On the day he was murdered, Rhyhiem was coaching football with family friend and mentor Sayce Holmes-Lewis.
Mr Holmes-Lewis, who runs sports youth project Mentivity, which steers teenagers away from joining a gang, said: “Rhyhiem was a good kid but made some bad decisions and got mixed in with the wrong crowd.
“Music was an expression for him, but the wrong expression, and it made him a target for rival gangs.
“The tragic thing is he had just started to talk to me about leaving that life, but it was too late. I felt like I had lost my own son.”
Metropolitan Police figures released last week show there has been a 16% rise in knife crime in London and at least 51 people have been stabbed to death.
London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, said more needs to be done to steer young men away from a life of violence.
Mr Khan told Sky News: “I have met lots of young people who want to get rich quick.
“They see someone on their estate, someone they know with a nice watch, nice trainers, nice car – and they want a bit of that.
“We need to make sure young people know that if you work hard there is a helping hand and that you can fulfil your potential. Too many people haven’t got that helping hand even though they are working hard.
“We need to explain to young people that there is a consequence if you get rich quick unlawfully – you can be a victim of crime, you can end up in prison. There needs to be an alternative to a career in crime.”
:: Line 18 is a journey through modern Britain in 2018. It runs the length of the UK from Northern Ireland to Scotland, passing through Lancashire, Manchester, the West Midlands, London and Essex.
It will examine the divides and fractures in society through the voices of those affected and backed up by data which shines a new light on how Britain is changing.