A City On Edge

US President Donald Trump retweeted a comment by Katie Hopkins in which she referred to London as a ‘Stab-city.’ Trump had previously made comments during a speech at the NRA show back on the 5th of May 2018 that said London’s knife crime is worse than gun violence in the US.

London’s stabbing death toll reached 132 in 2018, its bloodiest year in a decade.  But this isn’t just happening on the streets of the city of London. Knife crime has spread to surrounding areas and is becoming a national problem. And there is no indication of this trend slowing down.

Since the start of 2019, there has been a report of a stabbing every few days in London. Throughout February and March, 18 knife-related homicides were recorded each month. On the 8th of September 2019, one of London’s youngest victims, a 15-year-old male, was murdered, bringing the death toll in London to 100.

Unfortunately, people between the ages of 20 to 29 have made up a third of all victims of knife-related killings for the past 10 years.

Cutting To The Chase

So, what is the root cause? Gangs, drug deals gone wrong, random attacks or all three?

The UK Government has linked increasing serious violent crimes (including knife crimes), to the phenomenon of ‘county lines’ narcotics dealing. Drug dealers use mobile phone lines (‘county lines’) to take orders from drug users, then use children and vulnerable adults to be their runners to deliver the drugs to their customers. These runners are chosen because they are less likely to be suspected of being involved in drug deals than adults.

Recruitment Through Social Media

Gangs have been taking advantage of social media to ‘glamourise’ gang violence, display luxury items and recruit new members for some time now. However, social media is also used as a vehicle to target rivals and lure vulnerable victims.

Recently, a new gamified stabbings social craze, known as ‘Scores’, has surfaced amongst gang members, where they can earn ‘credit’ by stabbing on certain areas of the body. To earn points, members must prove their stabbings by publishing and sharing content on their social media accounts.

Ex-gang member Chris Preddie said that this point system was pressuring more young people into violence. “When I was growing up, you would get stripes like in the army,” Preddie said. “There has always been a ranking system. Nowadays, it’s a score system, who’s the bravest. It’s all about competing.”

Rappers To Trappers

On the 8th January 2019, 14-year-old Jayden Moodie, who described himself as a ‘trapper kid’ (urban slang term for ‘drug dealer’), was killed in a vicious attack that lasted 30 seconds. Investigators believe the attack was “targeted and intent on lethal force from the outset.”

Detective Superintendent Mike West of Met Police said the online threats could be to blame for the escalating violence.  “The gangs try to outrival each other with the filming and content – what looks like a music video can actually contain explicit language with gangs threatening each other. There are gestures of violence with hand signals suggesting they are firing weapons and graphic descriptions of what they would do to each other.”

 “We have been working with Google to take down some of the videos, but as with all serious violence, there is always more work to be done, West added.

In one case, a young man was attacked in the stairwell of a diner in London. The video footage, taken on a mobile device, was shared on Twitter and posted by gang members who boasted about it. 

Keeping A Sharp Eye On Social Media  

The craze is spreading through popular social networks including Snapchat and Instagram. Unfortunately, the escalating online provocation correlates to the increasing number of offenders, and the victims getting younger. This is putting added pressure on law enforcement to contain the knife-wielding epidemic both on the streets and online.

“Social media companies have a responsibility to ensure that violent images are not shared for young people”- Patrick Green from the Ben Kinsella Trust – Source The Sun

Slicing And Dicing Digital Data To Reveal Gang Networks

As more and more crimes today include digital devices and data, law enforcement must have a digital intelligence strategy in place to quickly identify connections, establish motives, and ultimately surface insights that keep investigations moving.

Cellebrite UFED Cloud enables collection, preservation, and analysis of cloud-based data from social media and legally pre-approved private sources, using a forensically sound process. To learn how accessing social media data during gang and organised crime investigations helps law enforcement solve these cases faster, read our whitepaper.

93% of digital forensics officers agreed that mapping and analysing the journey of a subject is a top priority for any investigation. (Cellebrite 2018 Digital Intelligence State of the Market Survey)

When investigators need to map out gang networks, Cellebrite Pathfinder eliminates the time-consuming/resource-draining manual review of digital data. Using Artificial Intelligence (AI), Analytics software automatically surfaces formative leads, discovers key evidence, and highlights actionable insights in the critical first hours of an investigation.

The Media Analytics feature uses machine learning to automatically detect and categorise images and video frames related to key categories, such as weapons, money, drugs, and more. Digital investigators can also quickly identify persons of interest with advanced person recognition and categorisation capabilities within Cellebrite Pathfinder.

The stabbings are usually caught on CCTV. Using Cellebrite Seeker, investigators can save time by skipping between video frames to focus only on the frames of interest within a specific video file.

Watch the webinar, “Digital Data: New Innovations in the use of Video as an Evidence Source” to find out how video evidence can help accelerate investigations.

At Cellebrite, it is our mission to equip law enforcement with the cutting-edge Digital Intelligence solutions needed to protect their communities. Our range of solutions can help uncover digital evidence to help curb this unfortunate trend of violence in the UK and other countries. 

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