If this year’s murder rate continues, there will have been more than 180 murders in London for the first time since 2005. Let that sink in. In terms of peace on our streets, we are going backwards.
A recent report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies stated:
‘The number of full-time-equivalent police officers in England and Wales fell by 14%, or almost 20,000 officers, between 2009 and 2016. This has undone the workforce expansion of the 2000s – there are now fewer police officers in England and Wales than there were in the late 1990s.’
The majority of us associate New York with high crime rates. After all, New York, like the rest of the US, has poor gun control. Over in the UK, we are quick to criticise our American friends after a mass shooting. Ironic, given that so far this year, the homicide rate in London has been higher than in New York.
One would assume that there is a correlation between Police funding and Police size, and further, Police size and crime rates on our streets. And so it would seem. Between the fiscal years of 2010-11, and 2014-15, government spending on our Police force fell by 14%, in real terms.
What is extraordinary is earlier this year, it was reported that crime is rising at 14% per year, the same as spending has fallen.
The Guardian reported that, between 2014-15, crime rates increased 6% nationwide, 2015-16, 8%, and now between 2016-17, the latest figures, a staggering 14%.
What is clear therefore is that cuts to our police lead directly to more crime. This is displayed most poignantly in the 55 people who have been murdered in London in the past 96 days since the beginning of 2018.
As a Londoner myself, I have never felt significantly unsafe walking on the streets, even in March last year, when I found myself in Westminster, the afternoon when Khalid Masood drove a car into pedestrians. However, London feels more on edge today than it has throughout my time in our great capital. People are more on edge. I personally was previously happy to go about my daily life in London. Now, I’m not so sure.
Tory cuts in policing have led to higher crime rates. The solution therefore is simple; increase the budget for Police. There are two ways the government can go about this:
- Redirect some government spending from other sectors into the Police budget. No need to borrow more from the banks and end up with a higher fiscal deficit, or increase taxation.
- Step aside and allow Mr Corbyn to fix the problem.
In last year’s snap election, the Labour Party announced that if elected, they would recruit an additional 10,000 police officers by 2021–22. This would bring the number to around 134,000 officers, roughly the same number of officers as there were in 2012; a clear reversal of Tory cuts. Labour costed this proposal at around £300m, although, as the IFS noted in their report, the costings failed to take into account training costs, and so the actual cost of this policy may therefore ‘be very slightly higher’.
Even so, £300m is a fairly small amount of money at a fiscal scale, particularly given, as Boris promised, we’ll have £350m extra per week after Brexit….
Returning to a serious note, £300m is a small price to pay for our safety. Young people shouldn’t have to be scared walking through the streets. I would argue that more important than other public services, we have a right to feel safe, and the government have a responsibility to protect us. Currently, they are not fulfilling that responsibility.
The statistics clearly show that the rise in crime in recent years is a national problem that requires national solutions. And one thing is absolutely clear. The government must urgently increase funding for police forces in London and across the country as well as restore funding for the services that provide paths away from crime, such as youth, education, probation and mental health.
Sadiq Khan, The Guardian, January 2018