City Hall Conservatives stepped up their challenge to Sadiq Khan on crime in the capital this week as his deputy mayor for policing and crime Sophie Linden told the London Assembly police and crime committee, “We are beginning to see the early signs of violence reducing in London.”
Figures on violent crime in the latest performance update from the Mayor’s office for policing and crime (MOPAC) were presented to the meeting in a report that suggested “a stabilisation, and in cases slight decrease during Q4 2018-19” and said “the number of victims of knife crime with injury where the victim is under 25 is again down on the same quarter last year.”
While the period from January to the end of March this year showed a 9% increase in victims of knife crime aged under 25 compared with the October to December 2018 figures, the total was down almost 12% on the same period a year ago.
In the fourth quarter of 2018/19 there were seven victims of knife homicide aged under 25, the same as in the previous quarter. Figures have remained high, though April to June 30 statistics are yet to be collated.
“There’s huge concern about the levels of violence, but we do feel we are making some progress,” said Mark Simmons, the Met’s assistant commissioner overseeing frontline policing.
An increase in stop-and-search had been a “significant factor in suppressing the level of violent crime”, Simmons said. It’s use was up by 45% since December last year, and by 87% compared to the totals a year ago, the meeting heard.
While black Londoners were four times more likely to be stopped than white Londoners, that rate had not increased over the past 12 months. “Our approach is now much more targeted, more considered, more effective than it has ever been,” said Simmons, referring to his 38 years’ experience as a London police officer. Simmons also rejected suggestions that “Section 60” powers, allowing wider use of stop-and-search in specified areas, should cover the whole of London permanently. Section 60 was an important tool if used “at the right level”, he said.
Pressed by Conservative Assembly Member Susan Hall on Mayor Khan’s recent claims that London is not less safe than it was three years ago, Linden stonewalled. “Violence began to rise in 2014 and you can see that happening in London and outside London. In the last year we’ve seen violence in London begin to go down.”
She also clashed with Hall on police numbers and claims that more officers could be funded within existing budgets. With the vast majority of Met police funding coming from central government, multi-year budget settlements were needed, she said. “You can’t just turn on the tap. It takes nine months to recruit and train an officer.”
Khan had contributed £234 million in the form additional business rate and council tax funding to the Met, and the service was on track to have a total of 31,000 warranted officers by the end of this year, she said.
Linden also confirmed that deployment of facial recognition software is on hold pending an evaluation conducted by Essex University and technical assessments. There will be no use of the controversial technology unless the conditions laid down by the independent panel advising the Met on ethical issues were met, she said. Assistant Commissioner Simmons added that the system would not be in use at this year’s Notting Hill Carnival.
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