Violent Crime

Questions to the Mayor of London – answered on 6th July 2022.

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Photo of Len Duvall OBE Len Duvall OBE Labour

What action are you taking to tackle violent crime this summer?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

I did deal with this briefly in my opening statement, but I am really grateful for the chance to respond properly to this important issue. Tackling violence and making our city safer is my number one priority. In London, we have been tackling violent crime head-on by being both tough on crime and tough on the complex causes of crime and this has resulted in violence falling since before the pandemic, but I am clear that there is still much more to do. I stand fully behind the MPS in its work to bear down on violence, remove dangerous weapons and tackle drugs and gangs, as well as its work supporting communities through neighbourhood policing. Through the MPS’ Operation Summer Nights, planned police activity focuses on violence against women and girls (VAWG), reducing violence affecting young people and targeting reductions in robbery.

I am determined to build on the progress we have made to reduce and prevent crime but, as I warned last week, the cost of living crisis risks taking us backwards. I am doing everything I can to support Londoners, but it is important that the Government steps up with much bolder action. My Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) is leading a partnership approach to tackling violence that is rooted in prevention and early intervention. This includes investing in positive opportunities for 100,000 young Londoners. Our interventions take place all year round to support young people from some of London’s most disadvantaged communities. This summer, the VRU’s investment is focused on providing positive opportunities outside of school and at weekends. The Stronger Futures Programme has engaged with nearly 2,500 children and almost 800 of those have reported improved mental health and wellbeing, with 380 feeling safer and more engaged in their local community. My [2.8 Million] Minds programme is delivering community-led activities in eight neighbourhoods across London, sitting alongside a comprehensive London-wide sports programme in the lead-up to and during the summer. We are also providing £1 million investment in developing support networks for parents and carers to help them better nurture and protect young people and support for children at the critical transitional period as they prepare to move from primary to secondary school.

Photo of Len Duvall OBE Len Duvall OBE Labour

Thank you, Mr Mayor, for the way that you have answered the questions. You mentioned briefly about the work on the VAWG Strategy. Can you outline any other pre-emptive work in terms of where the police are bearing down? We do not hear much of the work of the Violent Crime Taskforce now, but I presume it still exists. Is that part of the summer plan in bearing down and driving down those crime figures?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Absolutely. Prevention and early intervention are crucial, as is enforcement and there is a misnomer that a public health approach is somehow soft when it comes to enforcement. It really is not. The Violent Crime Taskforce with neighbourhood teams and with others really do bear down on those carrying the knife, those involved in criminal activity, making sure communities feel safe, with high visibility policing you supported, and you campaigned for, in fact. The town centre teams are doing a really good job. Enforcement is very important, as is prevention and early intervention, giving young people constructive things to do but also young people seeing the police in a positive light and the police seeing young people in a positive light. Nobody should be prejudging others and it is really important we get that tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime right.

Photo of Len Duvall OBE Len Duvall OBE Labour

The checks and balances that exist in terms of stop and search now should actually allay some of the trust and confidence issues within the community. Are we doing enough in terms of communicating with geographical areas about where we are doing evidence-led activity, in bearing down and trying to protect our citizens, usually our younger citizens, in terms of facing crime?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

The point you raise is so important and I will tell you why. If we do not do the engaging, which we are doing, when the police go into an area of high criminal activity they give the impression to that community, many of whom are law-abiding, of them being over-policed and being picked on. That is why the police now work incredibly hard with councils, council leaders, councillors, Members of Parliament and community leaders in advance of, during and after an operation so they know what is going on. It is really important to have that dialogue and that explanation, rather than people feeling as if policing is being done to them, working with the police and you have seen really good results around the city. I was recently speaking to one of the youth leaders in Croydon, who was speaking positively about police engagement with community leaders and engagement with youth workers, engaging with young people. At the same time, they are welcoming that they are taking knives off the streets and arresting those carrying weapons and also welcoming intelligence-led stop and search. That would have been unheard of two years ago.

Photo of Len Duvall OBE Len Duvall OBE Labour

Moving on from that, can we see more communication of where we would be saying, “Look, it’s evidence-based. We are looking into it”. Do we really have it right when we see some of the social media that goes up, the 40-second clip of an encounter with the police that looks pretty horrible to be honest? They are sometimes horrible when they get out of hand and people reach the wrong conclusion. There was one a number of years ago around Islington where an officer was grappling with someone who had been involved in a knife crime and still had the knife on them, but of course we had a number of crowded people rushing round saying, “Oh, go easy on him. Go easy on him”. The officer was one lone officer, trying to work out where the knife was, and he knew that he had the knife on him. That officer was suspended because his knee briefly touched his neck, and it was in the video. That was the only bit published. None of the bystanders knew the circumstances, what was going on. Of course, the checks and balances resolved that issue, and that officer was reinstated in work, but there are those critical encounters where people make the rush judgements. I do not blame them. People do and it is a fact of life; you see something. Could we be doing more to explain about some of that? I am confident that where the police are behaving wrongly, they would be brought to account in that sense because of the checks and balances and because of the reviews that are in place. Are we telling the public enough about that? Are we really telling the public enough?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

I can understand the issues you are raising completely. I often receive operational briefings that I cannot divulge to the public for obvious reasons, but also you can understand why the police are a bit reluctant to give a running commentary. Why? As there may well be an IOPC investigation. Why? As there may well be a criminal case arising from the interaction because the civilian is arrested or charged or there may even be a criminal prosecution against an officer. You can understand why the MPS does not want to explain more than it has, but you are right to articulate the frustration. Often, it can take months or years before the IOPC or the Directorate of Professional Standards or whatever gives a conclusion and in that time the public is seeing just one version of events, albeit a clip. I get your frustration. The police are always trying to find better ways of communicating with the public.

What I am happy to do, Chair, with your permission, is to take away the point raised in the very responsible way it has been relayed by Assembly Member Len Duvall to see whether the Acting Commissioner [of Police of the Metropolis] and the Acting Deputy Commissioner can think about being more brave.  I think that is what you are asking for, being more brave in explaining as near as possible to the incident the other side of the story, rather than this delay leading to people prejudging and leading to less trust and confidence. Can I take that away and see what more they can do? I think it is an operational response, rather than coming from me for obvious reasons.

Photo of Len Duvall OBE Len Duvall OBE Labour

Yes. Look, I understand that. What we want to avoid is mixed messages or police officers feeling that they should hold back when there is a threat to the public.

Photo of Len Duvall OBE Len Duvall OBE Labour

We need to be very clear that in terms of those judgement calls they are able to act and when they get it wrong, we hold them to account.

Photo of Len Duvall OBE Len Duvall OBE Labour

When they get it right, we should praise. Mr Mayor, I want to congratulate you. In May, you announced a further £3 million for the funding of a very important programme and it is one that we have to monitor over the years, the ENGAGE programme. This is targeting offenders, those that are in prison and all the rest of it. You have just given that, and you have some initial figures. Can you just tell us a little bit more of your thinking around that programme because that is going to the heart of the matter. That is the public health approach to dealing with the most difficult, repeat offenders, people that have committed very serious crimes that you are working with to turn their lives around and make different choices.

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Yes. Look, one of the things we have got to accept, and it is not a party-political point - it happened when Labour was in Government as well - is there is a revolving door when it comes to the police catching a bad guy. They are charged, prosecuted, found guilty, doing time or receiving a sentence, coming back out and that same person does it again. Can we intervene? Prisons often do not have the time, effort, energy and resources to rehabilitate the way they should, and I believe that you should both punish and reform. What we are trying to do is tackle the behaviour of that perpetrator to stop them reoffending, which means fewer victims and it means less cost to the taxpayer, less anxiety and distress for the victims, and so forth. We have to make progress there because otherwise the reoffending rates range between 50% to 66% within the first year of being released. That does not make sense to me, and it is particularly frustrating to communities, to the police and so forth. We are making progress and it looks like it is good, but on the flip side we are criticised for investing in offenders. You are right to praise it. It is a brave policy, it is the right policy and the more we can reduce reoffending, the fewer victims of crime.