UK gangs keeping 'scoreboard' for knife and gun violence

22 May 2019, 22:28 | Updated: 23 May 2019, 14:22

UK gangs are keeping "scoreboards" of knife and gun violence as part of a brutal game fuelled by YouTube videos in which they brag about their crimes.

Youth workers and parents of victims have told Sky News the game is costing lives and there are calls for the antagonistic music videos to be removed more quickly from platforms such as YouTube and Instagram.

Rhyhiem Barton, 17, was gunned down in May last year in south London. Prior to his murder he rapped about "the scoreboard" in a drill video which has had over 300,000 views.

His mentor, Sayce Holmes-Lewis, told Sky News: "Is there a literal scoreboard? Yes. People are keeping count of the attacks that each organisation is carrying out."

He added: "You stab a person in the head or the chest you get a certain number of points. You get varying points for the severity of the violent act. Young people's reality seems to be very warped when it comes to violence. They think it is a game. Taking somebody out and killing somebody is now fun."

Mr Holmes-Lewis runs a mentoring programme for young people in gangs on the Brandon Estate in south London where Rhyhiem was killed and was with him on the day he was murdered. He says that within hours the rival gang was boasting about the murder on social media.

He said: "I saw the videos bragging about Rhyhiem's death and the Instagram accounts and Snapchat. It was sickening and it made me extremely upset.

"These videos are not being taken down quickly enough and they should be screened before they go on.

"I know it's very difficult with the high volume of traffic on social media but these are young people - young people are dying as a result of some of these things that are being released on YouTube, on Instagram and Snapchat and more needs to be done."

Sky News has been told from other sources that the scoreboard gives 50 points for a wound to the head, 30 points for the chest, 20 for the stomach, 10 for the leg, and 5 for the arm. One youth worker described it as "a taboo that needs to be talked about".

It is not just London gangs who are taking part. Last month four young men from Ipswich were sentenced to life in prison for murder, having previously made a YouTube video about "scoring points" against a gang from a different postcode in the Suffolk town.

Aristote Yenge, 23, Kyreis Davies, 17, Isaac Calver, 19 and Adebayo Amusa, 20, murdered Tavis Spencer-Aitkens. He was stabbed 15 times and hit over the head with a glass bottle.

The gang made a video in which they rapped about "scoring points like 23" thought to be a reference to high-scoring basketball player Michael Jordan who wore the number 23 shirt. Their video has had more than 112,000 views and the family of the victim has told Sky News they want it taken down.

Chris Preddie grew up on the fringes of gangs and now works with young people. He helped translate the videos for us and said: "They are always 'scoring points like 23'. It means they always get their target. They sing about 'riding dirty, never clean'. It means they've always got drugs or knives or guns."

He added: "The more violent the attack, the more points. You get a lot of points for the face and the head, because it is visible."

Mr Preddie believes young people are mimicking violent video games such as Call Of Duty.

"They've been playing these games and now they are making them a reality," he said. "So, their reality becomes a game where you score points by killing people."

But he also believes a lot of young people feel pressured to put on a persona.

He said: "They look tough in their videos, but a lot of these kids are 13 or 14. They're still watching cartoon network. They've still got Power Rangers bed sheets and they're still asking their mum to iron their shirts. We need to start pulling the reins in.

"Parents always say 'not my kid' but they should start at home. I say to parents when did you last stop and search your kid to see if he was carrying a knife?"

Craig Turner is head of the Metropolitan Police's Trident Unit, which tackles London gangs.

He said: "There is no doubt social media is used to agitate and incite violence. We take them down as quickly as we identify them. If we were to see something like scoring, we'd seek to take those websites down."

The Met says it has taken down more than 100 drill music videos since January this year.

YouTube said it worked with police, the Home Office and communities to "ensure we are able to take action on gang-related content that infringe our community guidelines or break the law".

A spokesperson said: "We have developed policies specifically to help tackle videos related to knife crime in the UK and are continuing to work constructively with experts on this issue.

"We have a dedicated process for the police and the Prison Service 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."