Statistics released by London’s Metropolitan Police at the end of March 2018 revealed that the city’s murder rate has surpassed that of New York. The statement by the capital’s police force immediately lead to many looking towards London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan of the Labour Party, for answers. However, others have pointed out that the statistics could be indicative of longer term trends influenced more heavily by Theresa May’s policing policies as Home Secretary.
The statistics in question only place London slightly ahead of New York, but for the first three months of the year London has indeed seen an abnormally large amount of murders. London saw 15 murders in February, while New York saw 14. In March, London saw 22 murders and New York was again just one behind, with 21. If this trend continues for the rest of the year London will see 180 murders, reversing the generally declining annual murder rates and almost bringing the city back to its 2005 level of 181 murders.
While it’s difficult and near impossible to accurately predict whether a three month trend will continue for the next nine months, there is a characteristic of the data that is revealing and worrying in equal measure. Much of this three month spike in London’s murders has been due to stabbings involving youngsters in the city. February’s 15 murders included 9 under-30s, and the number of under-25s killed in 2017 was over 80% higher than in 2016.
This large element of young stabbing victims is what critics of Theresa May are highlighting as an outcome of her policies. As Home Secretary in 2014, May ordered the Metropolitan Police to reduce the number of stop-and-search incidents that do not lead to an arrest, after widespread criticism that such searches were unjustly harassing young ethnic-minorities in the capital. Over two years the number of stop and searches indeed dropped by two thirds. But at the same time, the rate of knife crime began to rise again, reversing the decreases seen between 2010 and 2014.
Furthermore, the Conservative government’s cuts have removed £700m from the Metropolitan Police budget since 2010. Local authorities, which many officials claim are instrumental in solving the problem at its source, have also seen their grants cut by 49% within the same timeframe.
Critics of Sadiq Khan on the other hand raise the point that London’s overall murder rate has increased by 40 percent over only three years, of which Sadiq was London’s Mayor for the latter half. Such statistics also put pressure on the Metropolitan Police chief Cressida Dick, whose critics claim she is wrongly focused upon the influence of social media upon acts of violence between young persons.
However, despite the many divided opinions over who to blame, a cross-party consensus of sorts is beginning to emerge over how to best tackle the issue. Theresa May’s current Home Secretary Amber Rudd and Sadiq Khan are both in agreement that the root causes of knife crime are what require the greatest attention. Each of them have focused their work upon empowering community groups who can work with youths in a more constructive manner than police officers usually can, and Amber Rudd has also began looking at lessons to be learned from Scotland’s approach of treating knife crime in the same regards as a public health issue.
One thing for sure though is that this shocking statistic of London witnessing more murders than a city that used to be infamously referred to as the ‘Rotten Apple’ may finally bring the issue the attention and effort that it deserves.
C. Tully (Coventry, UK)