Police budget cuts driving violent crime, Met Police chief says after fatal stabbings

Man stabbed to death in East London following knife attacks in Birmingham and Manchester 

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Correspondent
Saturday 19 May 2018 00:14 BST
Police activity at the scene where a 16-year-old was found with serious stab wounds and despite the efforts of the emergency services the teenager was pronounced dead at the scene in Lower Parade, Sutton Coldfield.
Police activity at the scene where a 16-year-old was found with serious stab wounds and despite the efforts of the emergency services the teenager was pronounced dead at the scene in Lower Parade, Sutton Coldfield. (PA)

Cuts to police budgets are driving rising violent crime, Britain’s most senior police officer has said, following another murder in London.

A 24-year-old man was stabbed to death in Barking on Thursday night, hours after a 16-year-old boy was killed during disorder in Birmingham.

The bloodshed came in the wake of official statistics that revealed a 22 per cent rise in knife crime across England and Wales, with the tide of violence turning scrutiny on reductions in police funding and the number of officers.

The Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Cressida Dick, said her force was recruiting 500 extra officers using a £110m boost to the force's budget announced by London Mayor Sadiq Khan.

Asked whether funding cuts were to blame for the spike in violent crime during an LBC Radio call-in, she added: “We are definitely seeing an increase and I think there's lots of reasons for it.

“There's a connection to the drugs markets and what's going on with those, undoubtedly.

“Obviously, some changes in people's financial and economic circumstances that affect all kinds of things which have a direct or indirect effect on young people.

“We are seeing the glamorisation of violence, we are seeing social media being used to taunt other gangs, to bring violence about very quickly.

Violent knife fight erupts on Victoria line in London

“There's a whole load of things, but of course I would be naive to say that the reduction in police finances over the last few years, not just in London but beyond, hasn't had an impact.

“I'm sure it's had an impact. It's part of the issue, and that's why I'm very grateful for the new money that we've got, which we are getting on and investing on recruiting new people and I think it will help.”

The government has announced initiatives including a serious violence taskforce and £1m extra funding for charity programmes steering young people away from gangs.

But its first-ever Serious Violence Strategy was heavily criticised for omitting findings from a leaked Home Office document suggesting that budget cuts had “likely contributed” to rising violence and “encouraged” offenders.

The last stabbing came in Barking at around 11.30pm on Thursday. Police gave the 24-year-old victim first aid before paramedics arrived but he was pronounced dead at the scene.

No arrests have been made and police are appealing for information.

Mr Khan called the killing “devastating news”, adding: “The Met will do everything they can to bring the criminals responsible for this senseless death to justice.

“There is no honour in staying silent. To stop stabbings and violent crime, we must work together.”

More than 60 people have been murdered in London so far this year but violence has not been confined to the capital.

A teenager has been arrested on suspicion of murdering a 16-year-old boy who was stabbed in the street in Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham, on Thursday.

He was found gravely injured following disorder in the town centre, where police have mounted extra patrols.

On Wednesday, a 17-year-old boy was stabbed in the chest in the Moss Side district of Manchester.

He remains in a serious condition in hospital after running into a house for refuge and collapsing. An 18-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of assault.

The reasons behind rising violence have been the subject of fierce debate. A report by the government cited drug dealing and social media as key drivers last month, but police have called for more funding to turn around the loss of thousands of officers and voluntary groups have attacked cuts to youth services.

The Metropolitan Police claims its "gangs matrix" database helps prevent violence but an Amnesty International report criticised it as racially discriminatory and ineffective.

On Friday the Home Office announced charities could bid for a share of a £1m fund to help steer young people away from gangs and violent crime.

Successful groups will receive up to £30,000 each to educate teenagers about the dangers of carrying weapons, with the pot available increased from an initial £765,000 announced last year.

Victoria Atkins, the crime minister, said 47 charities across the UK had already benefited from the community fund, including the London-based Ben Kinsella Trust and the Coventry-based Positive Youth Foundation.

“Knife crime has devastating consequences for families and local communities and we are determined to provide necessary support for those most at risk,” she added.

“Our Serious Violence Strategy places a new emphasis on early intervention and steering young people away from crime in the first place.”

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