Since the easing of lockdown measures, there has tragically been a spate of violent murders across London. What are you doing to address this and to try and prevent a further escalation in violence as we head into the summer months?
The recent violent killings are hugely concerning and my thoughts and prayers remain with those affected families. The Commissioner [of Police of the Metropolis] and I have been clear that we are absolutely determined to drive down violent crime across our city. We are both concerned that we could see an increase in violence this summer as lockdown measures continue to be eased.
I am working with the MPS to prevent violence in our communities, and our VRU is creating an extensive portfolio of preventative support for those young people most at risk. Many forms of crime were reducing before the pandemic and have continued to reduce, but I am not complacent. Our focus now is on sustaining the reduction we have seen as a result of the lockdown. During lockdown, the MPS targeted London’s most serious and violent offenders through their Violence Suppression Units. The Violent Crime Task Force is currently preparing for its annual Operation Summer Nights, which will focus on reducing violence as we emerge from lockdown.
Enforcement is only one part of the response, and I have invested more than any other Mayor in preventative activity. The VRU is supporting young people during the summer months. We are investing £1 million into a new after-school provision fund specifically for vulnerable young people, or those at risk of violence. Earlier this month I announced new VRU funding of £900,000 to expand the MPS Divert crime prevention programme, a successful police custody programme that supports young adults to stay away from violence. The VRU also liaises with local authorities after serious incidents of violence and, where appropriate, offers access to their critical incident fund to support the local response. I have continued to support programmes like London Gang Exit; I announced new funding for that today as well.
As I begin my second term, I have renewed my commitment to tackling crime with an absolute focus on bringing down violence in all its forms.
Thank you, Mr Mayor. Firstly, can I congratulate you on your re-election? Mr Mayor, I noted your answers to questions from Assembly Member Prince and what you have just said and I welcome the many measures and initiatives that you are taking and have been taking over the last few years. There is of course a great deal more to be done to ensure that violence does not continue to rise to pre-COVID levels over the summer. It should also be noted, however, that there has been some progress in the last few years in reducing the overall number of young people injured as a result of knife crime, which there has been a reduction in since 2018. Of course, we cannot be complacent, as you continually keep on reminding us, and one incident is one too many. What do you feel has contributed to this from City Hall? Also, looking ahead, how can you build upon this work and ensure that these numbers continue to fall over the next three years?
Yes, that is a good question and thanks for your comments. The Government has finally woken up to the fact that austerity has consequences on a whole host of issues, including crime. The part of the equation it has done a U-turn on, which I welcome, is police funding. The Government announced 20,000 officers over three years; we have actually lost 21,000 officers over a number of years, but that is by the by. We will find out soon the third-year number of officers we will receive. We have received only about 1,300 in [each of] the first two years - 2,600 - and we need about 6,000 of the 20,000 to get the right number of officers.
The second part of the equation the Government has not recognised is the causes of crime: youth services, public services and so forth. The key point is making sure, for the CSR this autumn/winter, we get a decent settlement for those parts of public services that are important to prevent crime happening in the first place. It is really important that we continue to deal with the causes of crime as well as enforcement.
Thank you. In your manifesto, this is what you had to say, and I quote, “I will increase visible neighbourhood policing - bobbies on the beat - in high crime areas and town centres.”
How many extra local neighbourhood police officers do you intend to bring in over the next term, and will these extra officers be part of the Violence Suppression Units or are you intending to increase the size of the existing dedicated ward policing teams?
No, these are additional officers. What I have given the Commissioner and the MPS is additional resources, but I am relying upon the advice from the police in relation to operational matters and where the officers go. These are additional officers and they will be in the - apologies for this clunky phrase - hotspot areas. The police will be looking at the areas where there are high levels of crime, which could be in small parts of a ward, and then suppressing them. That is on top of the violence suppression work taking place across London and that is on top of the Violent Crime Task Force work taking place in the high-crime parts of London boroughs as well.