Number of Acid Attacks in Great Britain Skyrockets
Great Britain is in the midst of a very disturbing crime wave. Attacks using corrosive liquids — usually acid — have skyrocketed in the last two years.
Last Thursday, two teenagers on mopeds attacked five men in one night around London. One of the victims suffered serious facial burns and lost his eyesight.
Great Britain has the highest number of acid attacks per capita in the world. What's unusual about the attacks is that many are directed at men. Some are apparently random attacks on strangers. But authorities say that acid attacks have now become the preferred method of gang warfare, largely because of acid's easy availability and low cost.
"It's definitely a growing problem", Jaf Shah, executive director of the charity, said. "Attacks in the UK tend to be men-on-men, men make up around two thirds of victims, which goes against the global pattern where the vast majority are women and girls."
Shah said gangs were thought to be favouring acid as a weapon due to the fact that it is cheap and easily available. "In the UK there aren't strict controls on the use of acid", he said, "96% sulphuric acid can be purchased from hardware stores without any ID or a license. When there are controls around other weapons such as guns and knives it becomes a weapon of choice."
He added: "It's also much cheaper and there's no risk of being traced, you can buy in cash, and it's not an offence to carry it. A recent number are reported to be by gang members."
While Shah said that a proportion of the attacks where being carried out by gangs, others were hate crimes, violence again women, and stranger-on-stranger attacks had also been reported.
"The effects of acid attacks are two-fold", Shah said. "The physical aspect is it causes enormous pain, the severity can vary, but they can result in extreme disfiguration and blindness, for example.
"They also leave very serious psychological scars, which can vary in different forms - deep depression, anxiety, panic attacks."
He said that in order to stop all types of attacks, the government should implement tighter controls on the sale of corrosive substances.
"The recommendation we've made to government is that they need to introduce controls on sales of acid - age restrictions and licenses, and banning cash sales, and making it an offence to be caught carrying it", he said, adding that more research needed to be carried out to determine exactly which substances were being used by perpetrators.
David Videcette is a former Met Police detective with a background in fighting organised crime. He told BuzzFeed News that the rise in acid attacks was directly linked to street gangs and organised crime groups carrying out moped-enabled crimes.