We seem to have had more than our fair share of murders in Kings Cross in recent years. The two killings in the last month prompted me to check my recollection of past events and ask what we can all do about this as individuals and a community.
I was loath to pull this list together – like many people I would rather forget all this and move on. The area is improving, let's focus on that. But we have to remember these tragedies to learn from them. All bar one of the following have been solved or likely to be:
Daniel Ross shot dead in a reckless shooting in the Scala nightclub September 2006 – remains unsolved
Christopher Winship November 2008 stabbed to death in a domestic dispute while picking up his step daughter from nursery on Bingfield Street. Eddie Reid the murderer was given a life sentence in August 2009.
Ben Kinsella run to ground and stabbed to death on the corner of York Way and Market Road in June 2008, three killers found guilty after the local organised crime syndicate intimidated them into turning themselves in.
Samuel Fitzgerald stabbed to death outside the Thornhill Arms pub, Caledonian Road, a man has been arrested and charged with murder April 2010.
Jessie Wright, 16 strangled to death in Outram Place just off Randell’s Road in March 2010, Zakk Sackett a local youth has been arrested and charged with murder.
I am not fully on top of the statistics but this does seem to be a higher death toll than one might expect for an urban area about a mile long by half a mile wide over three and a half years. If we go back further there are others.
Yet crime in the area has fallen, a lot. Walking around Kings Cross from top to bottom feels safer. It is unrecognisable now from when I first lived in the area in 1994 on Wharfdale Road – saturated by the local sex trade who spent their takings with the dealers on ‘Class A Corner’ at the bottom of the Cally Road. Streets have been transformed, bad, decrepit housing like Naish Court has been replaced with better modern housing. The remaining big estates now benefit from security doors that put the residents back in control and help keep the drug trade out. We have a lot more police on the ground thanks to Safer Neighbourhood Teams and this website works to support them. Excellent local youth organisations like Crumbles, Sparkplug and CYP provide support for young people.
Each murder has its own special circumstances and defies generalisation. It's not just young people in gangs, it's not just the licensed premises, it's not just visitors nor people who live here, it's not just domestics, not just organised crime nor the sex and drug trade. Knives are a recurring factor, but often kitchen knives that defy control. Youth gangs come and go but have not been quite the insidious problem that other areas have. Two nightclub-related shootings perhaps point to issues there.
I was involved early on in the Safer Neighbourhoods Panel and have helped out CYP over the years (less in the last year or so as i set up a business). But overall I am at a loss to know what to do about these killings both as an individual and more broadly what we could do as a community. The murders seem beyond a statistical freak, yet it's hard to pin it on any one factor or even a set of factors.
As we face a future of public service cuts it's all the more important that as a community we can prioritise and focus precious resources. But what do we need to do to stop this dreadful trend? Any ideas?