The new commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service has said she is sure there will be “more physical protection for crowded spaces” in London as part of prioritising “bearing down on both terrorism and knife crime in London”.
Cressida Dick, who began her job as the country’s most senior police officer eight days ago, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme she recognises that “people in this country value the fact that they have freedom, that they are able to walk about and that the police are largely unarmed,” and said these were things “I want to protect in the future”, but that “there will have to be some changes” to better combat the terrorism threat.
Responding to recent police statistics suggesting that knife crime might be increasing in the capital, Dick said “the figures worry me” and that if both knife and gun crime are on the rise in the city it would be “a huge concern to me”.
However, she warned that she could not be sure the figures showed an overall trend and that due to “a lot of sub-categories and a lot of re-categorisation, that sort of thing, going on,” with the statistics, “the public could be forgiven for getting confused about what is actually happening” with violent crime in general.
Dick paid tribute to the Met’s recent record on the use of stop-and-search as a means of tackling knife crime, saying that while use of the tactic had been “very considerably” reduced, as had the controversially high proportion of black and other ethnic minority Londoners affected, the arrest rate had been “very high”.
“It is an extremely important tactic and tool,” she said. “Properly used, where the officers are acting lawfully, courteously, and are held to account, I will absolutely support them. And if in the fight against knife crime the numbers of stop and searches goes up, I will be supporting them in that.”
Dick said that “bearing down on violence” will define her commissionership, but added that, “secondly, I want to leave an organisation that is in very good shape to face the future – we need to modernise in lots of ways – thirdly, I want to invest in my people and, fourthly, I want to improve confidence in the wider public and particularly within our minority ethnic populations. That’s not in any particular order.”
Faced with the likelihood of further cuts to the Met’s budget, Dick said she would “look at innovative ways to cut our costs, whilst providing the service that we want to provide. If there are services that we have to cut back on, I will be upfront about that and I will explain why.” The service has been forced to make budget cuts of around £600m in recent years and appears to face further reductions of £400m or more.
“The job of police leaders throughout the proud history of British policing has been to make choices about where we put our resources,” Dick said, when asked if some categories of crime, such as burglary are effectively being ignored.
Stressing that “burglary in London is at an all-time low,” she said: “The public would not expect us to investigate a break in in a shed in a garden in the same way as we investigate a murder. We put hugely different resources in. Where there are no investigative opportunities after our first contact with the public, I think the public would prefer us to get on with something where we can have a criminal justice outcome. We’re not going to go in for meaningless activity.”
Dick said that in the “brave new world” of digital technology, the Met needs to “make the most of our ability to communicate with the public. What we’re finding is that huge numbers of members of the public, particularly but not exclusively members of the younger generation, want to contact us in all sort of different ways, which are not about picking up a telephone or going into a police station. The world is changing. We need to respond to that fast”.
She insisted, however, that more use of new technology would not be “at the expense of traditional values in policing, and that is face-to-face and visible policing,” saying that the Met’s present roll-out of body-worn video and other mobile equipment means officers “will be out on the street more instead of coming back [in to the office]. So for me, yes, it absolutely augments rather than substitutes for the face-to-face. The public like it, the cops love it ”
Dick also emphasised the distinctiveness of the capital: “I do believe London is different, for lots of reasons, and special for lots of reasons and needs a different sort of policing and I will advise politicians, both in City Hall and central government about that.”
You can listen to the full Today programme interview via here for the next 29 days. It begins from 08:10.