Sadiq Khan and new Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley are promising “more bobbies on the beat” in a new pledge to boost neighbourhood policing across the capital.
“That’s what residents want and they will be starting to see more police officers out in their wards,” the Mayor told yesterday’s plenary session of the London Assembly, where he faced questions alongside Rowley, who is now some three months into his job.
The “on the beat” approach, with officers allocated full-time to specific areas, had suffered due to over a “decade of austerity,” Rowley said and pledged that “serious uniformed provision across all the wards of London, getting back to strong neighbourhood policing,” forms the “cornerstone” of his plans to rebuild trust and confidence in the Met.
Sir Mark took over the country’s largest police force after previous commissioner Dame Cressida Dick resigned earlier this year amid growing concern about a “toxic” culture of bullying, prejudice and harassment, highlighted by various reports, and after the murder of Sarah Everard last year by a serving Met officer.
Behind the focus on “high profile” cases, the force had seen trust and confidence ratings “steadily declining” over a number of years, Sir Mark said. But while policing by consent in the capital had been “dented”, the Met could be turned round, he assured Assembly members.
That meant “changing the conversation” with communities which suffer the highest levels of crime and also have least trust in the police, he explained. “I accept we are not getting everything right, by a long way. I’ve been frank about that. We need a more constructive relationship.” And with “ghastly” figures for victimisation of black boys and young men, a “better way for the Met and London’s black communities to work together” was needed, he added
Stop and search, often controversial, remained an important part of his crime-fighting toolkit, he affirmed, with more than 400 weapons a month recovered through the tactic, though “how it is done matters enormously”.
Responding to questions from the Green Party’s Caroline Russell about “disproportionate” strip-searching, particularly of black children, Sir Mark warned against focusing on “one part” of the issue. “Last year more than 500 children were stabbed, some fatally, and 1,300 children were arrested for supplying drugs. Some are victims who have been groomed, and some are dangerous offenders,” he said. “We need to look at this in the round. When you look at the circumstances a lot of the disproportionality disappears.”
Meanwhile London continues to “buck the trend” on violent crime, Khan said, with totals down since 2016 and increasing investment in prevention through City Hall’s Violence Reduction Unit, established in 2019. “Violent crime is not inevitable,” the Mayor said. “People are not born with a knife in their hand. We are starting to make progress.”
Youth homicide rate fell by some 50% between 2020/21 and 2021/22, he said, while overall figures compared with the year to May 2016 showed knife crime with injury down 6%, knife crime with injury where the victim was aged under 25 down 22%, gun crime down 21% and burglary down 23%.
But both the Mayor and the Commissioner warned of continuing funding pressures, with police numbers per head of population still below the levels of 10 years ago, despite recent recruitment. To return to 2010/11 levels of funding would require a real terms 27% increase in funding, or £878 million, Sir Mark said.
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