Met Police need more bobbies on the beat to cut down knife crime

Met Police need more bobbies on the beat to cut down knife crime

Met Police’s focus on stop and search instead of putting more bobbies on the beat is to blame for rise of knife crime in London, Tory think tank claims

  • The number of fatal stabbings in London has doubled between 2013 and 2019 
  • Report comes amid mounting pressure on the Met and Dame Cressida Dick 
  • The MPS policing strategy is ‘highly irregular’ when compared to other cities 
  • Recent fall in knife crime ‘attributable almost entirely to lockdown measures’

A focus on stop and search at the expense of putting bobbies on the beat has been blamed for the rise of knife crime in London, a new report claims.

The Tory think tank Policy Exchange found that the Metropolitan Police followed an ‘unusual and unjustified strategy’ of using stop and search in the face of a spike in knife crime rather than targeting high-profile drug traffickers and putting boots on the ground.

It said the number of fatal stabbings in London doubled between 2013 and 2019 despite better survival rates for victims of knife attacks.

The report increases the pressure on Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida, whose relationship with Priti Patel has become strained in the wake of the murder of Sarah Everard by serving Met officer Wayne Couzens.  

Titled Knife Crime in the Capital, the report also found London’s ‘knife crime crisis’ impacted certain groups more than others – with black people nearly five times more likely to be admitted to hospital as a result of being stabbed than white or Asian people, and people under 25 accounting for more than half of hospital admissions for stabbings in London in 2019/20.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick is coming under intense pressure to resign over her handling of a number of high profile investigations and management of cases

It said: ‘The strategy the MPS has chosen to pursue is highly irregular when compared to other big cities, even when taking the unique challenges of policing London into account.’

The report said, compared with forces in Merseyside, the West Midlands and West Yorkshire, the Met had the highest rate of stop and search, and the lowest for apprehending drug traffickers and second lowest rate of officers involved in neighbourhood policing.

It added: ‘Suppression through measures such as stop and search is essential, but the MPS has over the last few years relied too heavily on this tactic alone, without building support for its activities from the communities most in need of help.

‘Although the policing of London presents unique challenges in terms of the complexity and scale of the task, the MPS seems to have an unusual and unjustified strategy, combining a relatively high rate of stop and search with weak community policing and targeting of high-profile criminals.’

The Metropolitan Police’s focus on stop and search at the expense of neighbourhood policing has been blamed for a rise in knife crime in London. Pictured here, two men being searched by officers during the Notting Hill Carnival in August 2017

The report also said the recent fall in knife crime was ‘attributable almost entirely to lockdown measures’ and the Met needed to ‘prepare for an upswing in violent crime, before knife crime spirals out of control again’.

As part of the recommendations, the report suggested the police and bodies relating to policing do more to explain data around crime and police operations.

‘The fact that ‘black people are nine times more likely to be stopped and searched’ is frequently reported in the media, despite the fact that this is a highly misleading narrative that undermines the relationship between the police and the communities most affected by crime,’ it said.

‘It is important to remember that the real injustice is that young black men have a higher victimisation rate and are more likely to die on the streets of London, not that they are subject to higher rates of stop and search.’

The report, published on Monday, contained a foreword from former Met assistant commissioner Sir Mark Rowley, where he said there was an argument for a ‘fresh look’ at policing tactics.

He said: ‘The Met appears to adopt a highly suppressive approach yet puts fewer resources and less effort into community policing and pro-active prosecution of drugs gangs.

‘The Met has deteriorating detection rates for knife crime. This is not an argument against stop and search – it is a vital tactic that the Commissioner was right to increase – but it is an argument for a fresh look at whether a different mix of tactics such as those seen elsewhere may be more successful.’     

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