Croydon has the third highest figures for gang rape in London, it was disclosed this week.
The borough accounts for 9.7 per cent of all gang sex attacks across London, according to a Scotland Yard report for the Metropolitan Police Authority.
The paper, compiled by officers from the Met’s specialist crime directorate, shows there were 93 gang sex attacks across London in the past year, compared with 71 in 2003/04. Hackney also features in the top ten areas, but figures for the borough, along with those for Lewisham and Tower Hamlets were not released by the Metropolitan Police.
The age of victims has also radically decreased, with 64 per cent of victims aged 19 or younger in the last financial year, compared with 48 per cent in 1998/9.
Stephen O’Connell, member of the Authority for Croydon, said the increase in gang rape by children is linked to the emerging gang culture in the borough.
“It’s an immensely difficult crime to approach,” he said, “but I think Croydon police and the central Sapphire team [the Met’s rape investigation unit] need to be working particularly on the gangs.”
Yvonne Traynor, chief executive of the national Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre, which is based in Croydon, said: “We have more clients who have been raped by gangs than before. Rape is being used as a weapon for retribution, punishment and dominance.”
She added: “Raping women is just another way to show your dominance in a gang … and something must be done now before it gets out of hand and becomes a permanent part of the culture of gangs in this country.”
Local residents had mixed views on whether Croydon was a safe place. Jackie Spinks, 67, said: “It’s not very nice in Croydon at night. I wouldn’t go out on my own.”
However, Rachael Willis, 25, a worker at Croydon Visitor Centre, expressed surprise at the report. “I actually think security in Croydon has gone up,” she said.
Charron Akhtar, a 24-year-old mother of two agreed. “I don’t think its any less safe than other areas, but obviously you need to know when to go out and when not to go out.” Asked whether she thinks the area has become more dangerous in recent years she said: “No, I just think it’s better advertised.”
There have been a series of high-profile convictions of teenagers for gang rape in the capital over the past year. In one case, a 14-year-old girl was repeatedly raped “as punishment” by nine members of a Hackney gang because she had “insulted” its leader.
Jennette Arnold, Hackney representative on the Authority said the rape is seen by some as a “weapon of war” and more work needed to be done to understand the reasons behind offending.
The Metropolitan Police said: “The increase in multiple perpetrator rapes is naturally a concern to the MPS and one that we are striving to tackle.”