British PM under pressure over stabbings, police boss blames lower staff
Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May came under pressure to increase police spending on Tuesday after a backlash over government handling of rising knife crime and her denial that funding squeezes were a cause.
Mrs May, as she pledged a cross-government response to knife crime focusing on its causes, insisted there was “no direct correlation between certain crimes and police numbers”.
But Scotland Yard Deputy Assistant Commissioner Graham McNulty appeared to make a thinly-veiled plea for more officers.
In a statement outside the Met Police headquarters on Monday afternoon, he said extra police officers did make a difference in tackling the problem.
“In advance of the weekend just passed, we had arranged for more officers from our Violent Crime Taskforce to be on duty and we have extended their shifts to raise visibility across London.
“The increased police presence has made a difference, with officers conducting more than 2,500 stop and searches in the last three days alone.”
Mrs May’s home secretary Sajid Javid also referenced, while speaking in the Commons, plans to raise police funding by almost £1 billion to “combat serious violence”.
But Mrs May, a former home secretary herself, insisted the main focus should be the issues “underpinning” knife crime.
The Prime Minister said on Monday: “What matters is how we ensure that police are responding to these criminal acts when they take place, that people are brought to justice.
“But what also matters is, as a government, that we look at the issues which underpin, that underlie, this use of knives and that we act on those.
“That’s a cross-government approach, it’s not just about the police, it’s about the whole of government and it’s the whole of government that’s responding.”
She said “a lot of this is gang-related, some of it will be drugs-related, there are a wide variety of issues that need to be addressed here and that’s what the government is doing”.
Police forces across the nation have been cut, with officer numbers in London at the lowest level per head – 3.3 per 1,000 – in 20 years.
Labour’s shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said: “Over 20,000 police officers have been axed by Tory governments since 2010. All of these have contributed to the rise in violent crime, and undermined the police’s ability to tackle it.”
And John Sutherland, a retired Met chief, said of Mrs May’s comments: “I take no pleasure in saying it, but this is simply not correct. To suggest that there is no correlation between police numbers and crime numbers is to deny both common sense and the professional experience of thousands of police officers, my own included.”
Mr Javid, meanwhile, will chair a meeting of police chiefs on Wednesday, including chief constables from the areas most affected by knife crime.
So what do you think?
Tell us in the comments.