Are cuts to police numbers the main factor behind the rise in London knife crime?
Ken Marsh, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, says YES.
There is most definitely a correlation between rising crime and falling police numbers – to say otherwise is absurd.
In 2010, there were 143,734 police officers in England and Wales. There are now 122,395 – 21,339 fewer. Likewise, in 2010, there were 33,367 Metropolitan Police officers for London. There are now 30,136 – 3,231 fewer.
Meanwhile, across the country, there has been a 12 per cent increase in police recorded offences involving a knife over the past year, to 39,332. It’s at the highest level since 2010 – coincidentally, when the dramatic budget cuts to policing began.
Last year, we had 14,788 offences involving a knife in London alone. Our remaining police officers are run ragged dealing with this and all the other demands that we have to tackle: terrorism, robbery, burglary, domestic abuse, child abuse – the list goes on. We do not have enough police officers to deal with what is put in front of us.
In an ideal world, we need 10,000 more officers in London, getting out into communities to prevent and deter.
Rupert Reid, director of research & strategy and head of the Liveable London Unit at Policy Exchange, says NO.
Police presence on the street is vital in tackling violent crime. Officers who know their patch can focus on preventing crime, rather than just responding to it. But the rise in violent crime is more than a question of police funding and overall numbers.
In recent years, the police have been asked to deal with an ever increasing number of issues, including cybercrime, hate crime, and investigating the alleged offences of those long dead. The London mayor and the Met must make hard-headed decisions on priorities to ensure that adequate numbers of police can be deployed to end the violence.
Fortunately, there are signs that some have begun to recognise this. As the outgoing head of the National Police Chiefs Council said recently: “We do not have the resources to do everything that is desirable and deserving… I want us to solve more burglaries and bear down on violence before we make more records of incidents that are not crimes.”
More police officers on the beat are part of the solution, but so is a rethink of priorities.