Sutton residents have expressed shock and concern over the safety of the borough following the fatal stabbing of a 17-year-old boy. The knife attack happened just after 7pm on Tuesday (December 5) on the bridge over Sutton bus station.
The boy was treated at the scene but died as a result of his injuries. While an investigation is currently underway with the suspect still at large, some residents fear the incident could be symptomatic of a wider issue.
Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) on Wednesday morning (December 6), student Jacob said: “It’s a proper shock. Sutton has always felt like the edge of the city but without much of the crime. I’m not so sure, though, things like this make you question it. I can’t remember the last time something as bad as this has happened.”
Mustafa, a young man who has lived in Sutton his whole life also told the LDRS: “I have lived here for 20 years, it is pretty much all I’ve known so I only think of it as safe just through familiarity. This is the first time I’ve heard of a stabbing [at this location] but there’s always violence by the station. It’s normally always the case of drunk people messing around and not normally serious things like this.”
Another shopper called Catherine said: “I was just thinking about all the businesses down that stretch of the road that can’t open all day. Obviously, the main thing is the tragic loss of life. It’s awful really. I haven’t heard of any other instances that have happened here in a long time. As we’re so close to Surrey it doesn’t seem to happen here as much, it’s more in other parts of London.”
As a borough, Sutton has some of the lowest crime rates in the capital. Recent data from the Metropolitan Police shows that as of 2023, Sutton’s crime rate was 21 per cent lower than the average in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland overall, and 31 per cent lower than the London average. Despite this, there are still concerns that the knife crime seen in neighbouring boroughs like Croydon will make its way south.
This view has been echoed by MPs like Elliot Colburn, who was passing the police cordon on the way to the Conservative’s local constituency office. The MP for neighbouring Carshalton and Wallington told the LDRS: “It’s really sad. The thing that’s always shocking is that Sutton is known as a low crime borough.
“We’re often competing with Richmond to be the safest borough in London, so stuff like this I think shakes the community. Particularly when it is right on the High Street during a busy time. It really is upsetting.”
“When stuff like this happens, people tend to worry that it might be part of something bigger with a wider threat. We know that 99 per cent of the time it is just a domestic or one-on-one incident with no wider threat to the public. It’s such a waste of life, especially at 17.
“A lot of people feel that after the recent death of the 15-year-old girl in Croydon [Elianne Andam]. It doesn’t help that it’s so visible and right in the middle of the borough. The police are now more aware of the threat in the borough.”
Despite a large police presence waiting at the police cordon on Wednesday, Mr Colburn believes the lack of visible policing in the area in general impacts how safe people feel. He told the LDRS: “There’s always the issue with police on the streets. There are 3,600 new officers in London, and we [in Sutton] have had our share of that uplift.
“The problem is that recently there have been quite a lot of secondments, where quite a lot of police have been asked to go into London to police large protests. Every borough has had that problem, and I think that is why we have had that lack of visibility.”
He added: “Whilst it’s great that we have all these new officers, it’s no good if no one sees them out doing their job in their communities. Police visibility sounds old-fashioned, but it really is a deterrent. I hope in the New Year we are going to see a new model about how they police Central London protests.”
Sutton High Street is well served by London transport, with frequent bus coverage and a hub station that takes commuters into the capital in three quarters of an hour. Its location on the fringes of the capital, with easy access to good schools and green spaces, has inevitably led to a development boom in the area. Despite this, some residents have been resistant to change, viewing Sutton as ‘the new Croydon’.
Speaking to the LDRS, lifelong Sutton resident Beresford Campbell said: “I’ve lived here my whole life and yes we have had incidents like this before. It is very infrequent, thank god. I was at school here in the 1940s and this used to be a Surrey village, but as it’s moved closer to London it’s nothing like that at all.”
Fear for the younger generation appeared to be the greatest concern for Sutton residents. Two mothers spoke to the LDRS of their fears over knife crime and the safety of their children. Karina said: “My daughter goes to Overton Grange School, and a few months ago the parents got a letter warning them about a teenager going around with knives.”
Friend and fellow mum Irena added: “It’s really scary, I fear for the young boys. Thank god I have a 12-year-old daughter. I feel safe, I’ve been living here for 10 years but thank god I don’t have to worry about having a son. I think there are enough police here, but you can never fully account for children. They act so fast, they are here and there.”
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