Real life violent turf war between Manor House and Stokey gangs played out in drill videos – but why hasn’t YouTube removed them?
- Credit: you tube
Police are cracking down on gang members who face prison for their involvement in lucrative drug empires, but as Emma Bartholomew discovers it’s a harder task controlling the violence as videos on social media fuel gang on gang hatred
Chilling drill videos which see rival gangs from Stokey and Manor House wearing masks and taunting each other over real life gun and knife attacks and a drug turf war, were the impetus behind a police operation which has seen 35 arrested since January - and yet YouTube continues to host them online.
Cops noticed that music world battles in the professionally produced rap videos - some of which have had more than 200,000 views online – appeared to refer to real-life violence on the streets.
Gang violence has soared in the capital this year with seven gang-related murders in Hackney alone since November, and 60 serious incidents of gang violence since January. Furthermore gun crime has spiked since July with eight firearms discharges.
As the violence spiked so too did the prevalence of online videos – notably between gang hotspots for serious violence in Stoke Newington and Manor House.
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“The gang videos were part of what initially caught our eyes,” acting DI Matt Webb from Hackney’s gangs unit explained. “They were producing a lot of these videos and very quickly, and as one was released the opposing gang was retaliating, which was adding fuel to the fire.
“They are there for everyone to see, and the artists promote themselves on Twitter and Instagram, but the videos they produce and the content they are rapping are very provocative.
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“They talk about the violent activity and drug dealing they and their gang have participated in.
“They will talk explicitly about individuals from opposing gangs who have become a victim themselves, and they are very open about their use of bladed weapons and firearms.”
Videos seen by the Gazette include reference to sending a Manor House gang member to “go get him”, who appears to be the same boy who pleaded guilty to murdering Daniel Frederick in March.
Another alludes to a stabbing in Stoke Newington High Street in November 2016 where the victim sought refuge in a bagel shop, when it states: “Darts got chinged (stabbed) in the barbers and you left him lifeless.”
One video seems to comment on someone being shot when it says they “got chook chook, and he’s dead but it really don’t matter”.
While violent crime has surged and cops have identified the stabbing and shooting victims “because we were patching them up through the ambulance service”, they in turn refused to help prosecute the aggresors. In cases where no forensic or CCTV evidence was available, the culprits were getting away with it.
But through Operation Ballymore police have been able to reduce violent crime by targeting drugs. “It’s a business, and they make a lot of money, which brings protection of their territory,” said DI Webb. “We found that was going hand-in-hand with the violence, so as an Achilles heel type measure we prosecuted the people involved in the drug dealing.”
Homes were raided and arrests made to put out the message: “If we can’t prosecute for violent offending, we will target the other illegal activity you are involved in.”
Kritz £LMula was one of the 35 people arrested since January in the police op, and in May he was convicted of drugs supply and sentenced to four-and-a-half years imprisonment. But although in one of his videos he uses threatening language and the masked-up gang can be seen repeatedly making gun signs, it remains on YouTube’s international platform.
One deliberately inflammatory video made by a gang in Manor House entitled “16 is Ours”, sparked a video in return from a gang in Stoke Newington called “16 is really Ours”. While the second video has been removed by YouTube for breaching guidelines, the original one remains, despite Tel Money, the main artist, having been convicted of drugs supply and sentenced to four years imprisonment in April thanks to Ballymore.
The Gazette has asked Google-owned YouTube why the videos, which appear to incite violence, are still on there. One menacing video seen by the Gazette depicts a bunch of balaclava-clad men, while the rapper states: “I’ve got a machete on my waist. You got your shank, but I’ve got my shetty, and trust me it’s fatter”.
Another rapper can be heard saying: “Gang holds guns. If you violate the crew then we’ll stab you through your mum’s front door. You wanna be sure. The gang is still raw” – as his crew make stabbing movements.
DI Webb would ideally like to see the highlighted videos removed, because they fuel anger, increase tensions and sometimes spark retaliatory attacks.
“YouTube has community guidelines and if a video refers to real life incidents which are harassing in nature they will remove them,” he said. “It’s about trying to get the blend of freedom of expression with artistic rights and the detrimental effect it’s having on people.”
He is concerned by the popularity of drill music. “It is gathering interest in a lot of younger networks. Some of the gang members are releasing videos and within a few days have upward of over 100,000 views. There is one which has a million, which just shows the following they have and the reach.
“Some senior members are the artists and are role models to others in their areas, who look up to them and think that’s appropriate behaviour.
“We hope to a degree we have imprisoned a few people who we would suggest were senior in those networks, and there has been a reduction in the areas in crime.”
In 2016 during the two-month trial over Marcel Addai’s death where seven were in the dock, eight rap videos were used as evidence by the prosecution. The Hoxton Boys gang and the Fellows Court gang were seen making open and veiled threats to taunt each other, and the judge blamed the videos for being “at the heart” of the knife attack on the 17-year-old. At the time MP Meg Hillier vowed to hold YouTube’s “feet to the fire” to “keep on top” of the clips which incite violence and remove them.
But according to police data released in May, YouTube has declined almost half of Scotland Yard’s request to take down videos because they incite violence. The video-sharing website was asked to remove between 50 and 60 music videos in the past two years - but a little over 30 have been taken down.
A spokesperson for YouTube said: “We have a dedicated process for the police to flag videos directly to our teams because we often need specialist context from law enforcement to identify real-life threats.
“Along with others in the UK, we share the deep concern about this issue and do not want our platform used to incite violence. We have developed policies specifically to help tackle videos related to knife crime.”