Knife Crime

Questions to the Mayor of London – answered on 28th June 2019.

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Photo of Peter Whittle Peter Whittle Brexit Alliance

I note that the number of stop and searches under enhanced police powers has increased by 423% in a year in London.1 Do you now accept that this is the most effective means of addressing the knife crime issue?

1https://www.itv.com/news/london/2019-06-04/stop-and-searches-in-london-up-423-as-police-try-to-get-grip-on-violent-crime/

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Tackling violence is my number one priority. Enforcement, including intelligence-led stop-and-search, is absolutely an essential tool in doing this. Since I became Mayor, all front-line MPS officers are now equipped with body-worn video, which is a game-changer for increasing police accountability and helping to gather better evidence for swifter justice, but I do not accept that by itself stop-and-search is the most effective means of addressing knife crime.  Enforcement by itself will never solve knife crime. We also need to focus on prevention.

That is why I created the Violence Reduction Unit, which uses a public health approach to tackle the causes of violence. I have also invested £45 million in the Young Londoners Fund, ensuring there are a wide range of activities for young people to help them be diverted away from crime. My Knife Crime Community Seed Fund has supported 44 grassroots community groups involving protecting young people and ridding our communities of violence.

I have always supported intelligence-led stop-and-search. It is a vital tool for the police and I support its use when it is fair and proportionate. I have been listening to Londoners, young people and communities. I am absolutely clear that it must be carried out with respect, based on real intelligence, and of course police officers must feel confident using their powers where appropriate.

Since the City Hall-funded Violent Crime Task Force was launched in April last year [2018] the command has carried out 8,452 weapon sweeps, recovered over 1,800 offensive weapons, including knives and guns, and arrested 4,937 suspects over the same period. Wider activity targeting violence has seen 47,000 weapon sweeps, which have recovered 5,500 weapons.

Tackling violence is a complex matter and stop-and-search is just one part of our response. We must never be complacent, but our efforts are showing some success already with the number of victims of knife crime aged under 25 down by 20% over the last year and homicides down by 30%.

Photo of Peter Whittle Peter Whittle Brexit Alliance

Thank you, Mr Mayor. I think we would all agree we would like to live in a world without stop-and-search. I think everyone would agree on that. There is no question about it. My question is based on the statistic that there has been a 20% drop in injuries to young people under 25 since stop-and-search has been increased, so it works. You mentioned there the public health way they do it in Scotland. Stop‑and‑search was a crucial part of that, and in fact stop-and-search increased when that policy was rolled out in Scotland. When the Scottish Parliament then legislated to stop stop-and-search or reduce it or make it harder, then knife crime started to go up. It is a fact of life. It does obviously work.

What I would say to you, Mr Mayor, is that when you were standing for Mayor I remember you said you would do everything in your power to stop stop-and-search. That sent out a message, and these things take quite a while to trickle down. People might have thought, “It is much easier”.

What I am asking you, therefore, is can you not get completely, vocally behind the increase in stop-and-search? Although we know it has happened, I have not heard that much from you. Can you do that?

Also, can you resist as well possibly some disruption that might come, like we saw possibly in Westfield last week, where there was a disturbance which might have been brought about by the use of stop-and-search? This is what I am asking you to do, to show leadership. The fact is people feel that there is a void.

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Chair, there are a number of questions I have been asked. I am trying to deal with each one and I am trying to be quick because of time.

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Sorry, you are out of time?

Photo of Peter Whittle Peter Whittle Brexit Alliance

No. I am just asking ‑‑

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

I have seen no evidence that stop-and-search is the sole reason why crime goes down. Number one. Number two ‑‑

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

You did. As part of a package of measures which need to be taken to address the issue of crime, enforcement is very important.

Photo of Peter Whittle Peter Whittle Brexit Alliance

Mr Mayor, it has been drastically increased in London and we have seen, therefore, a 20% drop in knife injuries to young people under 25.

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

The Home Office under a Conservative and Liberal Democrat Government carried out research the last time there was industrial, indiscriminate use of stop-and-search at the levels we saw in previous years, which showed no link between industrial-scale stop-and-search and a reduction in crime. Point number one.

Point number two. The reduction of industrial-scale stop-and-search began when Boris Johnson was the Mayor and Theresa May was the PM, and I supported them in relation to not using industrial-scale, indiscriminate stop-and-stop. There was an 80% reduction when Boris Johnson was the Mayor and Theresa May was PM. What I do support is the importance of stop-and-search being used in an intelligence-led manner, also ‑‑

Photo of Peter Whittle Peter Whittle Brexit Alliance

Yes, but everyone agrees with that, Mr Mayor. I do not think you will find anyone disagreeing with intelligence-led stop-and-search as opposed to maybe what went on before.

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

I think you will. I think you will. You should listen to Boris Johnson.

Photo of Peter Whittle Peter Whittle Brexit Alliance

The fact is, if you say there is no link between industrial stop-and-search and a decrease, why in that case has there been a huge increase in section 60s, quite rightly, I would say?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Let me explain. The most common use of section 60 is after a knife attack in an area, often where the police are worried about tit-for-tat reprisals. What we have seen in London is a very good use of section 60 to make sure that we do not have an escalation of knife crime in particular areas. If you analyse where the section 60 searches are taking place, they are in areas where the police know there are high incidents of violent crime taking place, and it has been used in a tactical and strategic manner.

What you are seeing with the police now is using the Police and Criminal Evidence Act stop-and-search but also the section 60 stop-and-search in a good manner, but the context is we have 3,500 fewer police officers and so, not unreasonably, there are less stop-and-searches.