A new report by London’s Violence Reduction Unit finds that 50 recent homicides in London could have been prevented. The report, commissioned by the mayor Sadiq Khan, analysed recent murder cases investigated by the Met and identified six factors of particular interest. These were mental health, drugs, alcohol, gangs, social media and patterns of escalation.
Mental health was found to have the biggest presence. In connection with age, social media presence and long-term escalation, mental health was the primary trigger for murder. The causes of mental ill-health were often connected to other factors. In some cases, alcohol addiction or drug abuse could cause a downward spiral in perpetrators’ mental health, often exacerbated if there has been a breakdown in the relationship with mental health services.
According to the report, improved mental health services and greater understanding of mental health was said to be a key step in preventing violent crime. The research shows that primary suspects, or those with murder convictions, had often experienced a lack of access to mental health services, which made them more vulnerable to violence. ‘Violence is preventable, not inevitable’, the NHS’s Violence Reduction Programme London says.
Approximately 130 people are murdered in London each year but there is still a limited understanding of what drives these killings. The report’s purpose was to improve understanding of homicides and develop a new framework by codifying cases and analysing the situational and behavioural factors which contribute to homicide. Relying on the new framework and the case database, questions like ‘how many homicide victims knew their perpetrator?’ and ‘how often are drugs consumed in the run-up to a homicide?’ can be answered for the first time.
The next step for the Unit is to codify more cases and create a comprehensive framework which will eventually encompass all future homicides in London. The researchers acknowledge that the original sample of 50 cases was small and not representative of all murders in London, although it was enough for the report to identify the six factors of particular interest and the interactions between them. With reference to the 50 cases, the Director of the study, Ed Bradon, told the Guardian that ‘every single one’ could have been prevented.