Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.Donate to our crowdfunder
Despite the best efforts of Southwark police, my constituents are concerned about the cuts to the borough force and the loss of 200 officers since 2010. These cuts were made despite a concerted campaign by Councillor Michael Situ, cabinet member for communities and safety on Southwark Council, and my constituents are nervous at the prospect of a further cut of 25% or 40% to the borough’s resources.
Four particular groups of crime have been raised with me. The first is drugs and the antisocial behaviour relating to their use and sale. In parts of my constituency, there has been a rise in the visible use and sale of class A drugs. This is in central London. In particular, residents of Tissington court, in Rotherhithe, feel that the police were unable, or lacked the resources, to tackle the regular sale and use of heroin within the block. Families felt unable to send their children up and down the stairwell because of the use of heroin and its impact in that stairwell, including the voiding of bowels there during the day. To get that issue resolved, it took an incredible amount of time, and a concerted effort on my part with the Rotherhithe councillors, who took it to the police along with the local tenants association.
There has been a lack of focus in the debate on business crime, although my hon. Friend Peter Kyle raised the issue far more eloquently than I probably will. There are concerns that relate to businesses in my constituency. The rise in shoplifting has been raised with me by Tesco managers. Particular businesses have been targeted—for example, pub users have had their mobile phones stolen. We have seen a dramatic increase in commercial squatting across the constituency, which I raised with the Met commissioner. The Albion in Rotherhithe and The Elephant and Castle—unsurprisingly, located in Elephant and Castle—have been targeted. Even the Metropolitan police’s own building, the former forensic lab in Walworth, was squatted by about 80 people until it was emptied for sale.
My constituency has also seen a rise in commercial burglaries, particularly around Borough and Bermondsey, Long lane and Tower Bridge road. Cold Mountain Kit, next to my constituency office, was burgled on the day it opened. Businesses are losing profits and confidence when targeted in this way, as well as losing their stock and facing higher insurance costs. They also live in fear of repeat incidents in the face of cuts to our policing.
We have seen a drastic rise in street robbery, too. The South London Presscovered it just last week. A 46-year-old mum was mugged when picking her son up from school; a 70-year-old woman on Olney road had gold jewellery stolen off her body; and an 85-year-old women was targeted for gold theft by muggers on Andrews Walk in a recent spate of incidents.
As other Members have mentioned, we have seen a dramatic rise in murders and knife crime in particular. It gives me no pride to say that Southwark has one of the highest murder rates in the capital. Knife crime has risen by 13% in England and Wales; and in 2013-14 only 16% of the knife crimes in Southwark led to charges being brought. I see that the hon. Member for Gower
(Byron Davies) back in his place, and he suggested that the police have the resources to deal with that. I think that is offensive to my local police force. With the track record of 16% of charges brought in cases of knife crime, the police clearly do not have the capacity to tackle that problem. Most recently, close to where I live in the constituency, 16-year-old Mohammed Dura Ray was murdered in a brutal knife crime on