Police have expressed “genuine concern” that gangs in Birmingham are engaging children younger than ever in deadly violence across the territory. As social media “fuels” the culture that appears to mimic turf wars in America, one detective said.
It comes after two teenagers were convicted of manslaughter for their part in the killing of 16-year-old Sekou Doucoure in Hockley. The talented footballer, who played for Nottingham Forest Academy, was said to have been linked to gangs matching the B20 postcode, but on July 12 last year he rode an electric scooter into the neighboring B19 area of Newtown to search for so-called rivals.
He was stabbed to death at around 6.30pm in the forecourt of the Esso petrol station on Nursery Road. The man who allegedly delivered the fatal blow has been identified but has yet to be arrested. After a court hearing, 18-year-old Pierre Thomas and a 16-year-old boy, whose name cannot be released, were found guilty of manslaughter and possession of a firearm or imitation firearm for helping to hunt down Sekou down the street .
READ MORE: The secret Birmingham gang behind number 6219 decrypted in court
During his defense, Thomas claimed he had been exploited by gangs since he was 10 and was afraid of going against the orders of older members for fear of violence against himself or his family.
Speaking to West Midlands Police’s BirminghamLive Detective Inspector Laura Harrison, she said: “It’s definitely a gang-related case, but I think that the fact that the victim was actually 16 years old , being almost veiled as they are; the level of violence and the use of knives and firearms in the streets so early in the day when everyone is going about their normal lives.
Detective Inspector Laura Harrison from West Midlands Police (Image: BirminghamLive)
“It’s a really worrying part of the whole fact that it boiled down to where people can go with the zip code. Where do you feel safe? I have no illusions that Sekou knew he shouldn’t have been in this area.” He would probably prompt the response he received.
“If he expected it to go that far I don’t know, but because they feel like they’re doing something that belongs to a gang, there’s almost no consideration for each other or for themselves. It seems time to play and play again in the whole city. We are all actively trying to do something about it and there is a true partnership approach, but no one person or organization has the answer on how to address it.
She emphasized community work to highlight the danger of carrying a knife, but explained the consequences were not “appreciated or understood” by those who did arm themselves because of the peer pressure they were under.
The scene on Nursery Road near where 16-year-old Sekou Doucoure was killed (Image: BPM Media)
DI Harrison explained that gangs in north Birmingham, a “very deprived part of the city”, were “getting younger”. She stressed that the local police unit is working with children’s services to prevent children from “being in a gang as the most attractive way to make money, or being exposed to other areas of crime such as drug trafficking.”
She explained that there is “definitely” an American influence, reflected both in the slang terms used by young gang members and in their music. DI Harrison added: “Social media may have fueled the culture around them.
“What matters is that it’s a bit Americanized. It’s a way of expressing yourself that has made it more appealing to young people than older people because of its association with social media. It is well known that rap music is a way of communicating and expressing one another. Social media is a platform that’s a little easier to spread than being on the streets.”
The verdict will be announced in March.
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