Large parts of North, East and South London are now classified as “no-go zones” by restaurant delivery drivers due to London’s high crime rate and the growing number of brutal acid attacks, according to a report this week by The Sun newspaper.
Motorcycle delivery drivers refuse to visit several districts of London in the evening because they are afraid of being robbed at knifepoint, gunpoint or splashed with corrosive acid, which can leave victims permanently scarred. Many employees now take lower pay and finish early just to avoid the most violent parts of the capital at night.
Several restaurant workers told The Sun that although they used to deliver into the early hours of the morning, most drivers now choose to finish much earlier. “We used to work ‘til 2 a.m., but now people are stopping before 10 p.m.” one driver told a reporter, “After 8 p.m. or 9 p.m. we’re not going to those dangerous places.”
Perhaps surprisingly, drivers named some of London’s more fashionable and gentrified areas, such as Hackney and Camden, as key places to avoid after dark. The danger zones include newly refurbished neighborhoods such as Stratford, where the London Olympic Games were held in 2012. The wealthier district of Islington was also named as an acid attack hotspot. It is home to several British politicians including Secretary of State Boris Johnson and Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn.
There has been a large spike in acid attack rates in the capital city since 2014, with 2017 on track to set a new record. Last week, parliament debated the revelation that London has more acid attacks per capita than any other city in the world. The majority of cases were domestic in previous years — specifically religious “honor” or revenge attacks. The profile of crimes has now shifted to mostly random street assaults, involving gangs of youths on bicycles and mopeds.
On Wednesday, a woman walking alone in London’s modern financial district of Canary Wharf was sprayed with a “strong acid solution”, according to police. The 36-year-old reportedly sustained “life-changing” burns to her face and leg. Officers are currently reviewing CCTV footage and making inquiries, but the woman was unable to see her attacker and so far no arrests have been made.
By April of this year, more than 400 acid attacks had already been reported in the United Kingdom — an average of two per day. However, police say this number likely represents just a fraction of the total assaults taking place. Assistant Chief Constable Rachel Kearton, who is the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) lead on acid attacks, told The Guardian newspaper in December: “The U.K. now has one of the highest rates of recorded acid and corrosive substance attacks per capita in the world and this number appears to be rising.”
Although the BBC claimed in a recent article that acid attacks have been common in London for more than a century, many say the practice has been imported more recently from South Asia. The majority of attacks take place in the London boroughs of Tower Hamlets and Newham, which have the two highest percentages of first and second-generation Muslim immigrants in the U.K. and among the lowest population of White British in the entire country.
Under increasing pressure, British Home Secretary Amber Rudd has pledged to make it illegal to carry acid and prohibit its sale to young people. Police have also faced heavy criticism recently for their apparent soft approach on “lower-level” crime.