Peckham | Then and now

28 03 2010

Continuing with the Plastic Gangsta theme, thought it best to show the history of Peckham’s underworld.  As far back as a decade ago did the newspapers try to understand the criminal class in the borough, this one from the Telegraph…

Life and death in the Peckham ghetto

By Sandra Leville.  Published: 12:00AM GMT 30 Nov 2000

WITH pit bull terriers straining at the leash, two young boys stroll through the Peckham Pulse, a new recreation area outside the recently opened library.

Both are under 16, neither is at school. On a nearby street corner stands Dwain Brown, accompanied by his mother. The 13-year-old has not been to school since May, when he was expelled from Warwick Park, the neighbourhood comprehensive which becomes the daytime home of many of the smartly uniformed 11-year-olds when they leave Oliver Goldsmith primary 200 yards away.

Dwain was expelled for getting mixed up with the local gangs, which his mother says dominate both the school playground and the North Peckham estate where her family lives.

The Peckham Boys, the Deptford Ghetto Boys and the Brockley Crews, their names are already daubed in graffiti on the walls of the new library. They gather outside after dark while staff inside continue valiantly to promote football and computer clubs as distractions for teenagers being enticed into low-grade gang warfare.

Local beat officers know the gangs of boys well. One constable said: “They are mostly involved in anti-social behaviour, hanging around after dark and making a nuisance of themselves but there are a couple of gangs who are responsible for a lot of trouble. We know who they are, we arrest them, we charge them, they go to court and get a slapped wrist and then they are back here again. They think we are powerless and quite frankly they are right.”

At night in the dark alleys of the estate mothers and young children dare not venture out. Ryan Lee, a builder who has been demolishing blocks of the 1960s flats, also makes sure he is not in the area at night. He said: “It is quite terrifying round here. I came back after 6pm to pick something up one night. Never again. There are kids hanging around and you can see these cars drawn up, Mercedes and BMWs and kids run up to them to buy heroin. It is like bees round honey. When we demolished this block we found around 20,000 hypodermic needles.”

Dwain’s mother has another child, aged 10. Her friends, Sharon Ebanks, 36, and Karen Davis, 32, also have young children of primary school age, some of whom attend Oliver Goldsmith Primary, where Damilola Taylor was a pupil.

What they fear most is the move from the relative security and control of the primary environment to the likes of Warwick Park, a 915-pupil school with a reputation for bullying, violence and disruptive behaviour and an exclusion rate 10 times the national average.

Mrs Brown said: “You can see it start when the little ones get a bit older at their primary schools. I’ve just come back from a meeting with the head teacher of my son’s primary because he was being bullied badly. That’s when it tends to start. If the children are different, if they are bright or if they want to work they get targeted.”

With a high proportion of children with behavioural problems and many who do not have English as a first language, Oliver Goldsmith has had a turbulent past, but much has been done to stamp out disruptive behaviour. However, once these same 11-year-olds graduate to secondary school, many parents fear that they do not stand a chance. Pushing her five-month-old daughter in a pram, Mrs Davis was on her way to collect both her 11- and 14-year-old children from school yesterday.

She has first-hand knowledge of the problems they could encounter if she were not there to walk them home. She said: “Just a few months ago, around 3.25pm, I was in my flat when I heard the most terrible racket outside. I looked out to see what on earth was going on and saw a gang of teenage girls from Warwick Park and Waverley School outside on the green. It started as a fight between two girls. By the end there were 40 or 50 of them there and I have never seen weapons like the ones they had in my life. They had baseball bats, knives and clubs, and these were girls.”

These teenagers and others like them are regularly targeted by special programmes in secondary schools in which police, the council and teachers work together to tackle anti-social behaviour. Marilyn Bailey, a musician, has spent time working in schools on anti-bullying policies. But, having seen inside many of the borough’s secondary schools, Mrs Bailey, an American who was born in a Miami ghetto, refuses to let her 12-year-old son through their doors.

“He went to a secondary school for a short time. But he was bright, he was different and he had a terrible time. The whole culture is bad. If you want to work you are targeted.” Mrs Bailey now teaches Jonathan herself at home, such is her lack of faith in the education system.

She said: “I moved to Britain 10 years ago. I was born and lived in the ghetto in Miami. I got sick of the violence there. What I found constantly amazing is the way these gangs of teenagers here have adopted the attitude, music and language of the American ghetto. Thank God they don’t have guns yet like they do in the States, that’s all I can say.”

Mrs Bailey lives in a modern semi-detached house on the outskirts of North Peckham estate. It, and other rows of houses like it, are the product of five years of regeneration which has done much to rid the area of the sordid blocks of 1960s flats.

Within a year it is hoped that the damp block with boarded-up windows and burned-out flats where Damilola lived for four months will also be demolished and replaced with the new North Peckham estate – rows of two-storey, modern houses, complete with drives and car ports, all designed by people living on the estate.

The Right Rev Tom Butler, the Bishop of Southwark, said yesterday: “There is a lot of effort going into that estate. We are talking about probably one of the toughest estates in Europe and the Government has been spending £240 million knocking it down and rebuilding it with more human buildings, and it is showing.”

But Mrs Bailey and others like her do not feel it is showing quickly enough. She said: “You can’t just move people into nice new houses and expect them to change. It doesn’t work like that. You can take a person out of the ghetto but you won’t take that attitude away from them. You have to get down to their level and work with them to try to change their attitude and you can’t do that without giving them some hope of a future. The kids around here are angry and quite frankly they have every right to be angry.”

And even after seven years, the Guardian is still on the defensive…

The inside story of gang life in Peckham

Lorraine King.  The Observer, Sunday 11 February 2007

After last week’s killing, Lorraine King, a black mother and journalist for the New Nation newspaper, discovers the disturbing extent of gun culture.

The streets are clean, there’s no graffiti on the walls and the houses are well maintained. Walking down this London road I feel no fear; in fact a mother pushing her baby in a buggy has just given me a friendly smile – a rarity in this city.

But this isn’t a tree-lined suburban street filled with desirable Victorian homes. This is Peckham and the streets where three people – including 15-year-old Michael Dosunmu – have been murdered in just five days.

The area has never been salubrious. For more than a generation it has been linked to drugs, gangs and violent murders. It came to the nation’s attention in 2000, when 10-year-old Damilola Taylor was stabbed to death on a stairwell of a block of flats on the notorious North Peckham Estate.

Just over six years on and the crumbling Sixties housing blocks may have made way for low-level flats and homes through a £300m regeneration programme, but it appears that no amount of money can rid the area of crime.

As I walked around last week, I met a man who gave his name only as Mr X. He revealed a picture of young men boasting and showing off in an ever-spiralling game of ‘I’m a bigger man than you are’. Much of it is centred on the drugs trade, offering the only employment in much of the area. In the end, guns settle disputes.

‘In Peckham it’s standard for someone going down the local shop to be carrying a strap [a gun],’ he said. ‘In the past five years guns have just been made more and more available; it’s like going to order a takeaway now. It’s ridiculous.’

According to local people, gang members in the area go under the name Peckham Boys. Their arch rivals, the Ghetto Boys, are from nearby New Cross. For more than 20 years the gangs have been warring with each other.

Mr X said: ‘To be honest, the beef [argument] goes back so many years that people can’t even remember what it was over. It just passes down from the older ones to the younger members of the gang. The Ghetto Boys are falling apart bit by bit. They’ve got no strength no more. Their top leaders are gone – half of them are on crack, the rest in jail or dead.’

The quick succession of last week’s killings fuelled speculation that the murders were connected to the two gangs but detectives from Operation Trident, the Metropolitan Police’s specialist team which investigates gun crime within the black community, have only managed to link two of the killings and have said that neither is gang-related.

This does not mean there is a ceasefire. According to Mr X the ‘heat is still on’ and anyone who goes to the clubs locally will notice the cold atmosphere. He said: ‘You’ll have a certain gang of youths on one side of the dance, another on another side and another in a next corner. Everyone’s hostile, no one’s dancing.

‘It’s all about whose got the best bottle of champagne, who’s wearing the best trainers, who’s pushing the biggest weights, who’s got the biggest jewellery, who’s driving the best car.’

According to Mr X, if you can scoop every title – best champagne, best gun, best trainers – you will deemed the ‘winner’ of your area, or ‘ends’ as it is more commonly known: ‘Once you got your status, you’re made in your “ends”. You go put on certain cable channels and you hear it all in the music: “Rep [represent] your ends”. They’re glorifying it. Talking about drugs, guns, it’s all gone mad.’

According to a former employee of one of these small-scale urban cable stations, the more explicit the lyrics, the more likely it would be aired. She said: ‘If they aren’t talking about popping your gun and repping your ends the station didn’t want to know. I think it’s disgusting and that’s why I left.’

I thought it must be a south London trend, but after talking to my son and discovering that youths in north-west London’s (aka North Wheezy) Stonebridge Estate have beef with those from Neasden, I was horrified to discover this is not just a London thing but nationwide. White and Asian boys are ‘repping their ends too’ – in fact, many gangs are mixed.

I asked Mr X and other people what could stop this. They all said more black officers need to be in Operation Trident. Until then, the youths will take no notice of what Trident’s police say.

All over this…

Peckham & Peckham Boys

In 1987 the North Peckham Taskforce was targeted, earmarked by Margaret Thatcher for regeneration. The move came after concerns of crime, robbery and youth gangs. After £1million investment problems were supposed to be solved. Then nearly 13 years later there was a big regeneration project again in North Peckham.

The North Peckham estate in the last decade was revamped from run down high-rise flats and maisonettes and replaced with 2,000 new homes, a sports and leisure centre and an award-winning library at a cost of £290 million. Despite this cost and physical rebuilding the gangs and violence still remain.

Whilst much gang violence is perpetrated amongst and between gang members a number of innocents have been caught up with two of the most well-known incidents attributed to the Peckham Boys being that of Damilola Taylor and Michael Dosunmu.

In 2000 the Peckham Boys weren’t anything new, to the residents of south London they had been staple in the community for over a decade although unbeknown to those outside of London. A series of events relating to the Peckham Boys became more reported in the media and by the end of 2000 the whole of Britain knew of the Peckham Boys.

In the summer of 2000 an 18-year-old girl was shot outside a nightclub on the frontline whilst an African restaurant used by older Peckham Boys was raided by police who recovered a .357 handgun, stun gun, CS gas and cannabis. A few weeks later a Young Peckham Boy, aged 12, appeared in court after being found in possession of heroin, crack and £400. A gun battle outside Chicago’s nightclub on the frontline sees eight people wounded. Then in November, just 9 days before the murder of Damilola Taylor, 17 year old Shola Agora of Sceaux Gardens was stabbed and died at Kings College Hospital.

In late 2000, Damilola Taylor, 10, bled to death in a stairwell on the North Peckham Estate, after being stabbed in the leg on his way home from an after school club. The accused in the pro-longed cases were he infamous Preddie Brothers often linked by the media to the Peckham Boys gang although were seen to part of a lesser gang the young Untouchables. The Preddie brothers were responsible for a reign of terror in the Peckham community including a sexual attack on a 12 year old girl prior to Damilola’s death. It wasn’t until 6 years later when they were found guilty and convicted of manslaughter.

In a more recent similarly sad tale (Feb 07) another innocent Michael Dosunmu, 15, was shot dead when gun-men burst into his bedroom on Diamond Street Peckham. Police forged links with the murder three days earlier of 21 year old Javarie Crighton on nearby Southampton Way. The church going teenager however had not been the intended target

Peckham Boys war with Ghetto Boys

Ghetto Boys (a New Cross gang) told journalist Donal MacIntyre: “If any of those Peckham Boys come over to New Cross, this will happen (motions slitting throat)”. MacIntyre tried to put words into people’s mouths by suggesting that the Pecknarm (the nickname for Peckham), and Ghetto war is about drugs. But they informed him that this beef is inherited, not drugs or turf related. Never has been, never will be. It’s been going on since the 70s, handed down from generation to generation.

Ghetto and Peckham had never got on, even local football between Peckham and Lewisham teams would be highly charged. Cultural differences between the African contingence of Peckham (situated in the main gang areas of North Peckham) and Caribbean contingence of Deptford, New Cross and Brockley in the past fuelled some of the conflicts.

In 2004 former gang member Eric Akinniranye was chased along Camberwell High Street and gunned down. He had recently been released on temporary licence from prison where he was serving 10 years for drugs and firearms offences. Two gunmen in a Mercedes rammed him from a motorcycle before chasing him bringing him down with a number of shots. The murder took place in broad daylight in full view of two buses and a crowded street of onlookers.

In a more humorous tale in 2004 Peckham Boys and Ghetto Boys clashed outside the Urban Music Awards at the Barbican where shots were exchanged when a stray went toward innocent by-stander Helen Kelly. Bizarrely the underwire of her bra deflected the bullet away from her chest and into her right breast. There were 18 shots fired as people left the awards ceremony; Linton Ambursley from Lewisham was jailed for 12 years after admitting wounding with intent.

In September 2006 Jason Gayle-Bent, whose younger brother had been a former Ghetto Boy, was stabbed to death by a mob of Peckham Boys. The murder was reportedly sparked by a row at a party when rival Peckham and Ghetto Boys clashed at a party accusing one another of showing disrespect. Things turned nasty as one man was bottled. Just 24 hours later up to 40 gang members from Peckham armed with knives and a gas gun rode into the Ghetto Estate in New Cross on bikes where Jason was stabbed just yards from his home in Ludwick Mews. The following day shot rang out at a basketball court in Peckham in retaliation. Two of those at the court that day had their home in Peckham raided where police seized a Walther PKK pistol, Mac10, ammunition and class A drugs.

In late 2007 it was another innocent by-stander caught up in a what was a believed gun fight between rival Peckham and Ghetto gang members, although others have suggested intra rather than inter gang violence in the case. Polish nurse Magda Pniewska, 26, was hit in the head by a stray bullet as two teenage gunmen fired at one another in New Cross. “A guy came down the stairs with a bandana covering his face but you could see his eyes change like he thought he was being set up. He pulled out a gun and fired two or three shots at the car. A guy in the car shot back using the bonnet for cover”.

The war of Peckham Boys and Ghetto Boys has a long history and rooted within it there have been a number of losses. The younger generation who are not as familiar with the history have in some ways fixed but also disrespected this history. It can be seen as good that Pecknarm and   Wooly Road youngers are now allied with New Cross and Deptford so the beef can end and lives can be spared. But, the younger alliance is very disrespectful of the past.

Other Incidents

In 2001 a young man named Marcus Hall and his friends and other members of the Peckham Boys travelled to Luton to a So Solid Crew event at Atmospheres Nightclub. The Peckham Boys were refused entry to the club although some of them managed to get in. The event ended at 2am. As people were leaving the area became blocked with cars and there were several confrontations between various groups. It was in Chapel Street that Peckham Boys became involved in a fight with another group, all those involved were armed with weapons, including Hall who had been carrying a baseball bat. During the confrontation Hall sustained serious injuries and died.

A Peckham Boy was stabbed to death outside a McDonalds drive through in Malt Street, off the Old Kent Road, at around 10pm on 10th September 2003. A murder investigation was set up although police received little response and the CCTV images were too poor to see the suspects. However, after intensive specialist review of the CCTV it appeared the victim was touched on his shoulder by one of his attackers. DNA taken from the victims jumper where he had been touched led police to the main suspect.

A Peckham Boy gang boss was jailed for life in late 2007 after being found in possession of a huge arsenal of guns. Marlon Grandison, 25, was convicted of possessing guns including Mac10s and hundreds of rounds of ammunition.

In October 2008 following the inquest of the murdered teen Philip Poru from Peckham it was concluded that he had been murdered by members of a gang known as the Woolwich Somalians. However, the student was seen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and not gang involved. The murder followed tension between the Woolwich Somalians and the predominantly Nigerian gang T-Block (Thamesmead). It is believed there are allied links between T-Block and the Peckham Boys as both gangs have a large number of Nigerian members, on Poru’s response to have been from Peckham whilst in Woolwich territory it is believed his shooters assumed him to be there on behalf of T-Block who weeks previously had seriously injured 2 Woolwich gang members in a shooting. To prevent any risk real or perceived Poru was shot dead.

Late 2008, police arrested seven suspected Peckham Boy members described as major and significant players connected with hundreds of violent robberies across London. The members targeted were believed to have been targeting gaming machines and betting shops raking in over £150,000 from crimes in 17 different London Boroughs.

Other Gangs in Southwark

Peckham Boys have for a long time and always will be the most infamous and largest gang in Southwark borough. Although, a hotbed of gang activity and cliques also exist along Walworth Road, home of the Wooly Road Boys, Firehouse Crew, Out to Ball Grey Gang etc based around Walworth Road itself and the Browning and Aylesbury and Heygate Estate. The Walworth Road area and Peckham have had a loose alliance for generations.

Two lesser known gangs London-wide, although both associated with serious crime and drugs, are C-Block (Crawford Estate close to Lambeth and more associated with Brixton gangs and who identify with Red/Blood) and Brooklyn (Old Kent Road area and SE1 gang who identify with dark grey).

It isn’t more ethnic-based coppers or extra activity clubs needed, nor is it the provision of employment, cos to be honest, most are unemployable.  It is simply a case for MORE coppers on the street and a total blitz with tough sentences on the low-level thugs that provides a real deterrent to other degenerates.

If other words, stop puling me over Mr Plod and concentrate on the REAL crooks.

That or let me have my guns back.


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