Bexley and Bromley safety

Questions to the Mayor of London – answered on 11th June 2021.

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Photo of Peter Fortune Peter Fortune Conservative

What is your top priority to keep the residents of Bexley and Bromley safe?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Can I genuinely congratulate you on your election? You should be really proud, and it is big shoes you have to fill as well, I am afraid, but I am sure you will do well.

My top policing priority remains the same: to make London a safe city by being tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime. That means continuing to do everything in my power to invest in the police and fund services that will help prevent violence and crime. I have invested a record £1 billion in the MPS and put in an extra 1,300 police officers on London’s streets. The number of Dedicated Ward Officers has continued to increase with 1,578 Dedicated Ward Officers in post, supported by 626 Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs). London police officer recruitment is now at its highest level since December 2010.

I set up the VRU to give young people positive experiences away from crime and help prevent violence. The VRU’s public health approach has already benefited 80,000 Londoners. Bexley and Bromley have each benefited from a £50,000 investment from the VRU. Alongside this, the London Crime Prevention Fund provides Bexley with over £250,000 and Bromley with other £317,000 worth of funding for projects and programmes that span from crime reduction initiatives, local youth projects, and domestic abuse services.

Each borough has selected two local volume crime priorities based on local knowledge, crime data and police intelligence, which is set as a priority alongside antisocial behaviour. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) agreed to continue with the existing priorities selected for each borough. For both Bromley and Bexley, these priorities were burglary and non-domestic violence with injury. Crime levels in these priority areas have reduced in both boroughs. Borough data shows that non-domestic violence with injury has decreased by 13% in Bromley and 24% in Bexley.

The priorities shared by the Commissioner and me will be delivered most effectively by working together with communities, local boroughs and the Government. This includes the London Assembly. We want to work with you over the weeks and months ahead to discuss issues of common interest, developing a Police and Crime Plan that delivers for Londoners.

Photo of Peter Fortune Peter Fortune Conservative

Thank you very much, Mr Mayor, and thank you for your kind words as well. I can assure you Gareth Bacon [MP] regularly reminds me I have big shoes to fill!

Mr Mayor, just over a year ago my family were the victims of a burglary. It is an incredibly deeply invasive and upsetting crime. My daughter’s window was smashed and my son’s room ransacked and we lost irreplaceable family items that will be gone from us forever. This was a crime that was repeated over 2,200 times in Bexley and Bromley in 2020 and 2021, despite the lockdown. It was repeated over 4,300 times the year before.

Mr Mayor, what are you doing to make sure that the residents of Bexley and Bromley are safe in their own homes and that this time next year burglary rates do not return to where they were pre-pandemic?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

First of all, I am really sorry that you were a victim of burglary. You are right, it is invasive. Your family are traumatised in their own home, the place they should be the most safe, their castle. One of the things that we have done to see the improvements in the figures, and by the way the reduction - it is no consolation to you who has been the victim of burglary - but we are seeing progress in reducing both these areas. It probably explains why Bexley and Bromley may have chosen burglary as one of their two priority areas, because of the experience residents were having, it being an issue for them. That shows how it does work in relation to the police reflecting the priorities of the residents, which is the reason why boroughs are given a say over what the priority areas should be.

Some of the main details given to the police have been used in antiburglary work, so marking property is a good deterrent, but also means that property can be recovered when it is found. We have seen that where you have the work done on antiburglary around marking property, around good signage in windows, around Neighbourhood Watch schemes, around high-visibility policing, around the council supporting CCTV, around unmarked vehicles and marked police vehicles, there is a big reduction in burglary compared to other boroughs that do not have it as a priority and have not seen that work.

I am more than happy to have you sit down with the Basic Command Unit (BCU) team as well as the Commissioner’s team to explain the things we are doing. If there are additional things we can be doing in the boroughs that have burglary as a priority, we will be happy to do that. The advantage of having burglary as a priority in those boroughs that have them is that we can then learn the lessons from those boroughs and use them elsewhere, even if burglary is not a priority. I am hoping to see a further reduction. I mentioned the numbers, which again are no consolation to you. We are going to see further reductions going forward as well.

Photo of Peter Fortune Peter Fortune Conservative

That is very kind and thank you for your words as well. I think you will agree that solving crime also prevents crime. Taking criminals off the streets means that they cannot commit any more crime. Just looking at some of that data from the dashboard we are looking at, violence has increased from 9,426 in 2016/17 to 11,520 in 2020/21, which is an increase of 22%. But the sanction detection rates, so these are some sort of formal sanction, be it a charge or a caution, fell from 21.3% down to 9.9%. Moving to vehicle offences, we have an increase from 4,483 in 2016/17 to 5,776 in 2020/21, which is an increase of 26.6%. But again, that sanction detection rate fell from 3.3% to 1.3%. What plans do you have as Mayor to increase the number of crimes that are solved?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

This is a regular theme of conversation, not just with the Commissioner, but with the criminal justice system partnership. I have seen huge media coverage, and rightly so, like the report this week in relation to rape and the low numbers of detection and sanction rates. When you speak to the police, one of the things they will tell you, which is accurate and correct, is the police are often arresting people for some of the crimes that we are concerned about. The issue is what happens in the rest of the criminal justice system. The Commissioner speaks regularly with the Director for Public Prosecutions and others in the court system. There is a big issue at the moment, you will be aware, over the last 15 months with backlogs in courts, with attrition, witnesses not continuing with a prosecution. The police are focusing on making sure that we improve attrition rates on all sorts of crime. Rape has had the coverage in the media for the right reasons and we welcome that.

But other areas of criminality have not had the same coverage. Burglary is one of them. You will have heard this from conversations you have with police officers, often it is a small number of people doing a disproportionate number of burglaries. If you can catch them, arrest them, and they are properly prosecuted and dealt with, you will see a big reduction just by one or two people being caught in a particular borough. The police are seized of this. You will be aware, we have very little locus over other parts of the criminal justice system from courts, prison, probation and so forth. We do meet regularly with them. They share our concerns. None of them is in denial about the challenges they face. But I can reassure you that the police, who are the part of the jigsaw puzzle that I control, do work incredibly hard to detect, catch those responsible, and work with others to make sure those are properly brought to justice.

Photo of Peter Fortune Peter Fortune Conservative

Thank you, Mr Mayor. I agree with you completely that the police do work really, really hard. We will be looking to see those detection rates going up. Thank you.