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Cressida Dick says it would be 'naive' to think police cuts haven't hit rising levels of violent crime

Met Police chief says 'austerity has probably had something to do with' rates of violence

Lizzy Buchan
Political Correspondent
Tuesday 05 June 2018 13:02 BST
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Cressida Dick: 'Naive' to think cuts to police haven't had impact on rising crime

The head of the Metropolitan Police has said it would be "naive" to think cuts to the number of rank-and-file officers had failed to have an impact on the rising levels of violent crime.

Cressida Dick set herself at odds with the government when she told the Home Affairs Committee that cuts to police resources had played a role in a surge in gun and knife violence, which has resulted in more than 60 killings in London since the start of the year.

Ministers have repeatedly played down links between crime rates and a fall in police numbers, despite official figures showing there are 20,000 fewer officers than in 2010.

Former home secretary Amber Rudd, who resigned at the height of the Windrush scandal, came under fire when the government's 114-page Serious Violence Strategy failed to make any reference to police cuts.

Admitting that serious violence in London was "too high", Ms Dick said violent crime was a “horrible phenomenon” affecting particular communities, rather than wider society.

She told the Home Affairs Committee said: “A whole series of social issues will have contributed to the changes and the increases [in violent crime] I am sure.

“I answered a radio interview in which I said, in effect, of course austerity has probably had something to do with it, by which I mean, of course, the other services as well as the police.

“But I would be naive to suggest that reduced numbers of officers on the street, for a whole variety of reasons, including - and I’m talking across the country here - reduced officer numbers overall, has had no impact.

“I’m sure it’s had an impact, together with a whole series of other things.”

Official figures show the number of police officers dropped from 143,734 in 2010 to 123,142 in 2017, falling to 121,929 in September – the lowest number since comparable records began in 1996.

While crime rates are generally falling, knife crime rose by 22 per cent across England and Wales, with nearly 40,000 offences involving knives or sharp weapons recorded by police in 2017.

Gun crime also soared by 11 per cent to 6,600 offences.

Committee chair, Yvette Cooper, told Ms Dick: “In last month alone we’ve had 17-year-old killed in Ipswich, a 15-year-old killed in Wolverhampton, a 15-year-old killed in Sheffield, some of the biggest increases in knife offences on record in the capital.

“This doesn't feel like the police are on top of this.

"Maybe you’ll say this is not just about policing but from our point of view this looks like a shocking and really disturbing continuing increase in the stabbings of teenagers.”

Ms Dick told MPs that she had successfully boosted resources through increases to the policing precept and she was putting more officers on the streets to bring down levels of violence.

Responding to the exchange, shadow policing minister, Louise Haigh said: “The most senior police officers in the land have called out the dangerous Tory delusion on police cuts.

“In the face of overwhelming evidence from senior officers and their own officials, it appears that the only people in the country who now believe the loss of 21,000 officers hasn't made the blindest bit of difference to community safety is Theresa May’s government.”

Social media and drugs were pinpointed as the key drivers of violent crime in the government's serious violence strategy last month, with officials also pointing to new developments of “county lines” drug operations and the rise in opportunities for gang rivals to taunt each other on Facebook and Youtube.

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