Cutting crime demands cultural change as well as investment
With 131 killings in London in 2017, and already upwards of 100 this year, it’s easy to see why crime is a huge concern for those of us who live or work in the capital.
Anyone would think this is the worst it has ever been – but this is far from the truth. Although it’s true there has been an increase in the last few years, it has actually been steadily declining since 2003, when there were 204 murders.
The world has changed immeasurably in the last 15 years, most notably with the rise of social media, but we can’t blame our problems on the internet. When people are stabbed on busy commuter trains on their way home from work, it’s not only shocking, but a sign of much deeper issues which can’t be solved by simply putting more bobbies on the beat. If only the answer was that simple.
Until recently, you could comfortably claim to be safer in London than you would be in New York. Now, it is not so clear. There have been 25,000 incidents of moped crime – most of them committed by young men – this year alone. Between 2016 and 2017, serious youth violence rose by 19%. Instances of aggravated theft and sexual assault increased by similar margins. All are red flags highlighting the plight of our fractured communities.
The Metropolitan Police does an exceptional job of keeping Londoners safe day in, day out – but ultimately, solutions must be sought in City Hall. Tangible and decisive action must be taken to tackle the deeper issues behind the statistics, while avoiding knee-jerk responses that might not work beyond the short-term.
It can’t be a coincidence that 2012, the year of our historic and triumphant Olympics, when London joined together as one community in celebration of our great city, murder rates fell by 0.4% from the year before to just 89. The effect of this lasted for another three years. I believe this is the key.
So, while I acknowledge there is a need for more police officers – and should I win the Liberal Democrat nomination for the 2020 mayoral race I will be campaigning to hire at least 2,000 as a minimum starting point – what we need more than anything is a cultural shift which sees our police more deeply embedded in our troubled communities. It’s not ‘them’ and ‘us’. We are families, friends, work colleagues, communities and fellow commuters. We’re all in this together.
We need our police force to reflect our communities, and for that reason they must be recruited from all corners of London, from the wide, leafy streets to the toughest estates. Ultimately, the solution lies not in how many officers we recruit, but where we recruit them from, to restore our communities. Only then will we start to effect real change.