Londoners can expect to see more police patrols in areas of the city with the highest Covid-19 infection rates during the second national lockdown period and extra government funding will be used to step up targeting breaches of the new public health restrictions, Met Commissioner Cressida Dick told the London Assembly police and crime committee yesterday.
“Everyone is on the lookout for Covid breaches – events that shouldn’t be happening, weddings, parties, protests, unlicensed music events – and patrolling where infections is highest,” she told Assembly Members, adding that although the Met will continue to explain the rules and encourage compliance, enforcement will follow where warnings are not heeded.
However, tackling violent crime remains the Met’s top priority, Dick confirmed. “That’s what the people of London want us to do,” she said. “There are too many people out there intent on carrying a weapon and being violent.”
The period following the first lockdown saw “record levels” of drugs seizures and arrests for trafficking, Dick said, along with more than 2,000 arrests for violent crime and more than 500 weapons seized. But she warned that gangs are resilient: “There is a continuing demand for drugs, and conflict over power and maintaining territory – this is what causes them to use violence, generally speaking against each other. Stabbings and gun crime are nearly all gang-related.”
The Commissioner reported that violent crime fell during the first lockdown and that although it subsequently increased, totals remain down on 2019 figures: knife crime with injury, where the victim was under 25 years of age, is down 16.6% on last year, in line with a downward trend since 2018, with the general knife crime category showing a 12.5% fall.
Dick mounted a firm defence of the use of “stop-and-search” powers, which rose by some 40% between April and June this year, despite recent Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) criticism of the way the power was used by the Met during lockdown.
While the IOPC had looked at just five instances of stop and search, its 11 recommendations had been accepted, Dick said. “But we will not deviate from using stop-and-search,” she continued. “Stop-and-search is an extremely important and, in my view, effective tool.”
Dick nevertheless conceded that confidence in the police has fallen following the killing of George Floyd in the US and subsequent protests, and that the gap between black Londoners’ and white Londoners’ confidence levels is increasing.
Sadiq Khan’s deputy for policing and crime Sophie Linden confirmed that a promised City Hall action plan on “improving trust and confidence, transparency and accountability” in policing, covering stop-and-search alongside wider issues, would be published before Christmas.
Commissioner Dick also confirmed that, with reports of domestic violence up more than 8% on last year, a further drive to arrest perpetrators could take place, following a successful drive in April and May this year.
She also confirmed that replacements for current EU cross-border cooperation arrangements, including the fast-track European Arrest Warrant system, were not yet in place. “It is increasingly worrying,” added Linden, citing recent warnings from the Met’s Brexit lead deputy assistant commissioner Richard Martin that new processes would, in any event, be “slower, less effective and more bureaucratic…than our existing set up”.
Watch the police and crime committee meeting in full here.
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