Minister denies police cuts linked to surge in violent crime – as Met floods streets in response to murders
Victoria Atkins says historical records disprove that numbers of police officers reduce crime rates
The crime minister has denied there is a link between cuts to police numbers and the surge in violent crime – just as the Metropolitan Police announced it would deploy hundreds more officers across the capital in response to a spate of murders.
Victoria Atkins said claims police numbers were responsible for the spike in crime were not supported by historical records, but Metropolitan Police commander Stuart Cundy said following a “terrible” few days in the capital, hundreds more officers would take to the streets in an attempt to prevent more deaths.
Scotland Yard said 17-year-old Malcolm Mide-Madariola was fatally stabbed on Friday outside Clapham South Tube station, south London, near where he studied.
The boy, from Peckham, southeast London, was attacked less than a day after 15-year-old Jay Hughes was killed in Bellingham, also in the southeast of the city, by a stab wound to the heart.
Meanwhile, a man believed to be aged 22 was fatally stabbed in Samos Road, Anerley, south London, at about 12.30pm on Sunday.
And Rocky Djelal, 38, was fatally knifed at lunchtime on Halloween as children played nearby in Southwark Park, Rotherhithe, southeast London.
Mr Cundy said more officers were being deployed on the streets to help prevent further violent crime.
“We have hundreds of additional duty officers on the streets of every single borough,” he said.
“Only together can we bring down the level of violence in London.”
However, Ms Atkins told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that police numbers were not linked to the prevalence of crime, and that instead crime was “changing”.
“In the late 2000s there was a similar spike in violence and there were many, many more police officers on the streets in that day and age,” she said.
“We are all, I think, realising that the nature of crime is changing.
“Of course, violence has been around as long as human beings have been around, but we have seen – and the Met commissioner herself has talked about – the ways in which gangs are much more ruthless than they used to be.
“The levels of violence which doctors are now seeing in A&Es show that incidents which before perhaps wouldn’t have resulted in fatalities now are resulting in fatalities.
“Gangs are behind the vast majority of these murders, and the gang leaders are using social media to communicate … using mobile communications in a way that 10 or even five years ago simply wasn’t possible.
“We and the police and others have to face up to the reality that criminals are changing their crime types and we have to be able to tackle that.”
Louise Haigh, shadow policing and crime minister, responding to Ms Atkins’ comments, said: “Police chiefs, Home Office experts and frontline officers all are telling the government that cuts have made it harder to tackle serious violence, yet Tory ministers maintain the dangerous delusion that their cuts to police officers numbers haven’t made the blindest bit of difference to public safety.
“In the current climate, that is reckless and unforgivable. The government must urgently back Labour’s plan to recruit 10,000 officers to start to undo the terrible damage done by Tory cuts and help keep our communities safe.”
The comments came as London mayor Sadiq Khan said it could take 10 years to turn around the problem in the capital, where 116 homicides have been recorded this year.
He also warned children as young as primary school age are now carrying knives and joining criminal gangs.
Mr Khan told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The Home Office’s own officials, in a leaked document, said there is a link between police officer numbers going down and crime going up.
“The cross-party home affairs select committee published a scathing report two weeks ago talking about the link between a cut in police resources and the increase in crime.
“The most senior police officers in the country have said it’s naive to think there’s not a link between cutting police numbers and an increase in violent crime.
“We’ve got to be more successful in lobbying this government to invest in policing.”
A Home Office spokesman said: “Knife crime has a devastating impact on individuals, families and community. To combat serious violence our strategy addresses the root causes of crime with a focus on early intervention alongside tough law enforcement.
“To support this we are consulting on a new ‘public health’ approach to tackling serious violence which would see police officers, education partners, local authority and healthcare professionals being given a new legal duty to take action to prevent it.
“We have also announced new £200m youth endowment fund to provide help and support to children and young people at risk of involvement in crime and violence.
“A major factor behind the recent increase in serious violence are changes in the drugs market. That’s why the home secretary has ordered an independent review of drug misuse, to increase our understanding of who drug users are, what they take and how often so that, armed with this evidence, we can step up the fight against drugs gangs that prey on our children.”
Agencies contributed to this report
The Independent has launched its #FinalSay campaign to demand that voters are given a voice on the final Brexit deal.
Sign our petition here