Last Tuesday Met Office Chief, Cressida Dick, acknowledged there may be “some link” between police numbers on the streets and knife crime, contradicting statements made by the PM. In Salisbury, on the anniversary of the Novichok attack on the Skripal’s, Theresa May stated there to be no link between police numbers and knife crime. This comes with a backdrop of numerous knife fatalities in the past two weeks, including the deaths of Jodie Chesney, 17, in East London on 1 March 2019 and Yousef Makki also 17, in Manchester. Suspects have been detained in both cases.
London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, supports the statements made by Cressida Dick, also citing funding cuts to youth, mental health services, and schools as contributory factors. “I’m not excusing criminality but there are complex reasons why violent crime has gone up, there are deep-seated social problems”.
The recent spike in knife crime has led to several MPs calling for the government to convene a meeting of the Cobra emergency committee, which is used to plan government responses in times of emergency. Labour MP Jess Phillips has described the current situation as a national emergency.
The Deputy Commissioner of the Met, Graham McNulty, said that “police shifts have been extended to try and counter the knife threat” but warned, “I can’t magic officers out of thin air”.
The staggering rise of knife crime in Britain is a multi-faceted issue, but its correlation to the vastly reduced police presence on the street must be acknowledged. The PM’s reluctance to take responsibility for this is pitiful. Cuts to public services by a Conservative government pushing an austerity agenda has resulted in a slashing of funding to services designed to keep kids on the right path, and now it is the service designed to catch the fallout of this which is being cut. Police reduction has meant there is less police interaction with young people, with people now believing they can get away with these crimes. There are worries that knife crime is now becoming normalised, partly through social media. Many young people see carrying knives as the only protection from others with knives, as confidence has been lost in the police. Whilst Theresa May has acknowledged that the crisis stems from deep-seated social issues, work by the government has done little to change this.
Police figures show a 53% increase in the use of knives by teens in violent crimes between 2016 and 2018. 40,000 offences involving blades were reported in 2018.
A 19% reduction in police funding since 2010 initiated by then Home Secretary Theresa May has led to there being 20,000 fewer officers in Britain. There are now fewer police officers in London than there were in 2003, while the population has increased by 1.5 million since then. Now, we are seeing record numbers of knife-related fatalities with under 18’s, with 39 in 2018. According to NHS figures, the number of under 16’s treated for stab wounds has doubled in the last 5 years.
It is vital that the government continues to focus on improving police response while at the same time steering young people away from criminal activity. Whether more police officers or an increase in preventative measures is required, the government must act to reduce the soaring numbers of knife-related homicides. Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, has chaired a meeting with Chief Constables, drawing up demands for a £15 million emergency grant to tackle this crisis. This should prevent further loss of young lives.