[from Islington Gazette]
‘Postcode wars’ at centre of gang feuds
30 January 2008
THE “postcode wars” that make some estates no-go areas for Islington youths begin because teens want respect from older hardened criminals.
For feuding gang members, stepping over the “front line” between N1 and E8 can mean death.
Numerous killings, including the 2005 murder of Essayas Kassahun in Old Street, have been linked to the phenomenon. Now a well-connected insider has shed light on the grudges that drive the violence – as old feuds between respected gangsters are kept alive by teenagers desperate for respect.
Daryl James, who turned his back on the world of gangs and now campaigns against the territorial violence, said: “The older guys are just about business. They’ve got their respect and their street cred. They don’t have time to run up and down the street doing this whole N1, E5, E8 thing – if they are driving a Porsche and making loads of money what do they care?
“But the teenagers see them in their Porsches and want that respect level – they will do anything to get it.
“If you want to impress the older guys you pick up a knife and stab someone – and the kids have nothing to lose. The kids are representing the streets more than the men at the moment.”
He continued: “The frontline of the battle is always moving. Look at Finsbury Park at 4am – there are so many people there you know something is going on. These teenagers only live on the other side of the road but it is enough to make them stab each other. And once one guy has been stabbed there is no more talking.”
Feuds begun years ago between criminals now in their 30s are kept alive by the “youngers” – teenage gang members – who seldom know what the original fight was about.
Mr James added: “You ask some of these guys what these wars are about but often they started so long ago the kids don’t even know what they are fighting over. They start over something as trivial as a girl.”
Commander Shaun Sawyer from the Met police violent crime directorate said: “There have always been territorial gangs in London. What is different is the level of violence – in most cases knives are used. It is postcode related. I’ve spoken to young people who say it is about respecting territory. Because they’ve got nothing else they hold on to what little they’ve got.”
One church finds itself in the very eye of the storm. Wesley’s Chapel in City Road is on the border between Islington and Hackney and attended by teenagers from warring postcodes. Its Reverend, The Lord Leslie Griffiths, said: “Definitely postcodes are a factor – it is territoriality because there is less of a moral purpose nowadays. How does one reason with the fact that one group of people have a murderous intent and are prepared to go at another group with baseball bats and knives? It’s a culture to identify themselves with their territory. I just pick up the pieces.
“Some of our kids come from the different postcodes and then hang around together at church as a great bunch of guys.
“But they come to church with their families which is obviously a calming factor.