A charity worker who helps youths involved in gangs and gang violence turn their lives around says whole communities are put in danger when someone carries a gun.
Steve Sterling was speaking after the capital was rocked by two fatal shootings in the space of four days this week.
Police launched a murder investigation after 24-year-old Salim Coulter, from White City, was shot in the head in Walham Grove, at the junction of North End Road in Fulham , at around 9.30pm on Monday (December 5).
Officers believe the trainee engineer’s killer was lying in wait .
Then on Thursday (December 8), a man is his 20s was shot dead in Kilburn .
His death is being investigated by the Metropolitan Police's Homicide and Major Crime Command .
Police were called to the busy street at around 5.20pm after reports a man had been shot outside Ellie's Cafe.
The victim, a man in his early 20s, was pronounced dead at the scene, and one witness recalled seeing the victim scream and collapse as they drove past with their children.
Speaking to getwestlondon, Mr Sterling said: “Crimes like this can impact everyone, and bystanders who can get in the middle of disputes with people that walk with these weapons.
“ It feels like our own community is not a safe place as you go about your normal daily routine.”
He is a Resettlement and ETE (education, training and employment) officer for London Gang Exit, a project being delivered by a consortium of organisations led by the charity Safer London.
Mr Sterling works first-hand with young people trying to escape the spiral of violence, and says events seen this week could lead him to question his belief that gun crime is not on the rise in the capital.
His thought were shared by Michael Smith, the founder of Words 4 Weapons, which provides secure bins to people to dump weapons.
Since 2009 it has removed 25,000 weapons from the UK’s streets.
Mr Smith said: “This has a devastating impact on a community.
"It changes how you think and act, whether you let the kids out, or whether you drive instead of walking to the shops.
“It impacts the whole neighbourhood because they don’t feel safe anymore ,” he added.
Mr Sterling said there were a variety of reasons why young people are turning to guns and knives, citing peer pressure and a misplaced sense of belonging as examples.
He said: “They carry a knife or a gun to be part of something, because of peer pressure.
"And they’re really young and that’s what they’ve been brought up to know - to protect what they have illegally.
“But innocent people normally fall foul to these people carrying guns and knives
"There’s pots in most communities where it seems to be the norm for these young people.
“It’s about having to prove yourself, it’s about a sense of belonging.
"They feel that someone is showing them love, but they’re not.
“They’re showing how to shoot or stab someone. That’s not something you give to someone you want to make friends with.”
He said more work needed to be done to educate these people, especially those that are serving time behind bars.
“We have to fight back with these youngsters who think this is normal way to live their lives,” he said. “Many of them have already been in prison
“They need to be educated, and there needs to be a part of that transition in prison where you can be educated to not do these things and to be a normal civilised person.
“I’ve worked with people that were sent to prison at 18 and come out five or six years later and they haven’t grown.
"They still think the same way, they’re still acting like teenager and they’ve learnt absolutely nothing.”
Mr Smith said neighbours had to come together to look out for each other and report suspicious activities.
He said: “Turning your head the other way doesn’t make your community safer.”
Finally looking at the offences across London on the whole, Mr Sterling added: “In my view it is knife crime more than gun crime that is increasing.
"We have not really heard where fatal shooting have been happening on a wider scale.
“So I wouldn’t say gun crime is increasing more recently, but when I look at the incidents in Fulham and Kilburn it does make me wonder.”
No arrests have been made in either of the incidents.
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