18 March 2010

In an old abandoned warehouse...And I said what kind of music do they play there...And they told me: Tekno...One night in Hackney

The incident last night...

So I'm walking home from work. It's a beautiful night, still light outside and I thought it would be nice to start taking advantage of the coming spring and get some exercise. It's a pretty easy walk, about 20 mins, and it's a nice opportunity to wind down after the work day and lose myself in my thoughts while I listen to my iPod. It's usually a pretty uneventful walk, the odd road rage or parping incident but nothing notable. Until last night...

Hackney has a pretty bad rep, as does most of east London, but this little Borough seems to be the poster child for anti-social behaviour, in particular knife crime. Which is a surprise to me because of all the incidents of stabbings I hear about (granted not all of them are reported) the majority seem to take place in areas other than Hackney. I used to joke that all the Hackney kids were going off elsewhere to do their stabbing...you don't shit where you eat, after all. But it would appear that the frequency of incidents has increased to the point where unless it's a major gang war or a fine upstanding citizen gets it in the back then the mainstream press only cover it in passing.

So I get to the building and am heading through the security doors and I hear these kids yahooing behind me, boisterous raised voices and what not. I didn't pay much mind to it as there's always teenagers yelling and carrying on but one of the voices started to become a lot louder and more strident, breaking and straining, like cries of anger and pain. I was on the second floor so I looked out over the balcony and saw this kid, a teenager, on the ground in the car park with another teen in a hoodie standing over him and giving him a half-hearted boot to the face before running off, hooting and hollering, with two mates who joined him out on the street. At first I thought it was a bunch of mates messing around with each other but as the kid on the ground struggled to his feet, looking dazed and distressed, I figured they'd given him a bit of a kicking. The weird thing I noticed more than anything else was the clouds of white feathers which were billowing around him and all over the ground. For a moment I had this bizarre thought that it was a drive-by pillow fight gone wrong but as the kid limped painfully towards the security doors I realised there was more to it than that.

I went into the flat and AG arrived home soon after looking shocked and upset. She told me there were police cars all over the place and that some kid had been stabbed in the parking lot. It was then I realised what I'd seen...or not seen, more accurately, as I realised while describing the incident to her that I had not really paid that much attention to what I thought was a minor scuffle and in reality had seen very little of note. I didn't see the faces of the attackers as they had been running away from me and had paid very little attention to what they were wearing. She thought I should go down and talk to the cops but I felt like there wasn't really all that much of interest that I could contribute and growing up the kid of a cop I knew that before long the uniformed officers would knock on every one's door to see if anyone saw anything, so I could tell him my story then.

True to form, soon after a PC knocked on the door and took down my account of what I'd seen. Apparently of all the residents of our block I had seen by far the most and someone would be in touch with me to ask me some more questions. He also told us that the attackers had gone on to stab two other people at the building next door so the chances it was a random stabbing spree were minimal...it was strange how similar his intonation of "gang-related" echoed that of politicians and newsreaders saying "terrorist related" as though it were just another catch phrase for social decline among the yoof or another sub-breed of undesirable. When I arrived at work today I had a call from a female PC who came over at lunch time and sat with me for a couple of hours taking my statement. She advised that the guy who was attacked was released from hospital but had been "arrested" so he could tell them his side of the story, and that four males has been arrested in connection with the attack. The two other victims were both in critical condition in hospital.

AG was, understandably, pretty freaked out by the whole thing, but in all the time she's been here she's never been close to any form of real violence, so I'm not sure why she's worried about any kind of repeat or escalation. The police are pretty sure it's gang related so there may be some retaliation but who knows. I think more than anything else she was sure it was a random attack and if I had been but a few minutes slower then I might have been the victim, but I don't believe that. Even the policewoman who took my statement confirmed that it was a gang thing and most likely triggered by some petty grievance or perceived slight.

The worse part of the whole thing is the "what if" scenarios that go through your mind afterwards. I'd like to think that we live in a society where there are people who will step in to help another in times of distress but I'm now graphically aware that this is also a society where teenagers will stab each other for looking the wrong way at them on a bus and therefore would have little compunction in stabbing a laconic Aussie by-stander who decided to play hero. So in those situations you have to weigh up whether your sense of chivalry is more important to you than your life...and sadly for all of us, chivalry comes out the loser.