Mayor Khan must get a grip on violent crime

It would be an understatement to say that I am concerned about crime in London – in particular moped and knife crime. The last couple few weeks have seen several high-profile moped crimes in our area, one even targeting popular comedian Michael McIntyre. Murders, too, are on the rise. At the time of writing, there have been 81 murders in London this year. That figure may have risen again by the time you read this. The latest victim died in north London.

Violent crime in London is, sadly, nothing new but this amount of violent crime is far from normal. It has been said that London now has a higher annual murder rate than New York – a city with a slightly larger population.

The public are, understandably, looking for answers and leadership. In London, policing and crime is devolved to City Hall. The Metropolitan Police Service – the biggest police force in the country with the largest budget - is headed by the redoubtable Commissioner Cressida Dick. She answers to the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, and his Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime, Sophie Linden. Together, they are responsible for keeping Londoners safe.

So what’s going wrong? Mayor Khan is no dummy. He is a shrewd political operator and a pragmatist. He knows London, as well as the policing and crime system from his career before politics as a lawyer (when he occasionally represented clients in cases against the Met Police). He must have known that intelligence-led ‘stop and search’ works as a policing tool. But when he ran to be London Mayor in 2015, he pledged to “do everything in [his] power to cut stop and search”. Now he has backtracked and pledged a “significant increase” in stop and searches, describing them as a “vital tool for police to keep our communities safe”. This is not his first volte face; he opposed and then supported detention without trial, and then supported then opposed a third runway at Heathrow.

When Boris Johnson was Mayor, violent crime in London halved. Boris allowed an intelligence-led approach to stop and search and brought in other measures such as knife arches, which lead to thousands more arrests and more weapons and criminals being taken off the streets. He worked with the police and Government to tackle knife and gun crime. Above all, he took responsibility in his role as Mayor of London.

Rather than get a grip, Mayor Khan is looking for someone else to blame. He has been notable by his absence and instead of taking responsibility, accuses the Government of not providing enough funding. It is worth noting that in 2018/2019, the Met Police is receiving a cash increase of £42 million from the Government, increasing their overall budget to £2.55 billion. The Home Office also backs the Mayor’s change of heart on targeted stop and search and is also in the process of reviewing the rules governing police chases, with an aim to make it easier for police officers to pursue moped gangs. The Government is currently putting the Offensive Weapon Bill through Parliament which aims to make it harder for criminals to obtain and use weapons such as knives and acid. This is part of the Government’s £40 million national Violent Crime Strategy published earlier this year. I have written to Commissioner Dick to ask if there are any more powers she needs. In short, the Government is stretching every sinew to help the Mayor to tackle violent crime. Mayor Khan needs to recognise this, stop passing the buck, and get to work.

Published in the NW Circular magazine, July 2018.