The wave of violent crime in London has been making plenty of headlines recently, with murders in the Capital outstripping New York earlier this year.
Policing in London is the responsibility of the Mayor and the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) who have issued plenty of soundbites so far but no real plan on how to tackle it.
With this in mind, Sadiq Khan’s latest statement on the causes shows just how out of touch with the situation on the ground he has become. Replying to a question on an LBC phone-in show, the Mayor stated that ‘Cocaine use at middle class parties’ is driving the gang related violence on the streets, a position previously endorsed by both Simon Kempton of The Police Federation and Justice Secretary David Gauke when he mentioned it back in May.
In one way, I can see where the comment has come from – much of the violence is drug related and for the drug gangs to thrive, they need customers. However, cocaine use has not suddenly appeared out of thin air over the last couple of years under Khan’s Mayoralty and has been prevalent in London since at least the 1980’s. Indeed, when The City of London started to forge ahead after deregulation in the 80’s, the ‘yuppy’ culture embraced recreational drug use as part of their ‘work hard, play harder’ culture, not to mention the rise of the illegal raves at the turn of the decade where another drug of choice, Ecstasy, was a central part of the party experience.
Working in the mobile phone trade in the 90’s, where large amounts of cash were being made as the sector exploded, drug use was always in evidence at major events and parties that I attended – the amount of times I cursed the lack of a toilet cubicle when desperate to get rid of the last three pints of lager I had drunk was testament to that!
Yet throughout that time, there was no surge in violent knife crime, moped raiders and acid attacks.
So, if we accept the premise that more customers means more crime, then surely drug use now must be at exponentially larger levels than before? The reality is no – indeed, the following was reported by The Home Office CSEW report within the last month –
Around 1 in 11 (9.0%) adults aged 16 to 59 had taken a drug in the last year. This equated to around 3.0 million people, and was similar to the 2016/17 survey (8.5%). The trend in last year drug use among 16 to 59 year olds has been relatively flat since the 2009/10 survey, and the latest estimate was similar to a decade ago (9.4% in 2007/08). However, the 2017/18 prevalence estimate was lower than in 1996 (11.1%), when the time series began.
So drug use is actually down on 20 years ago and has been flat over the last eight years, meaning that Khan’s explanation is not backed up by official figures.
So what is the cause?
In my opinion, there are multiple reasons. Firstly, the arrival of a new criminal class from overseas has triggered a struggle for control of the trade on our streets. Writing in The Evening Standard in July last year, David Cohen interviewed a former gang member who stated that , “In the last 10 years, since the Somalis and Congolese came to London, they taught us a new level of violence. These people had seen family members mutilated so when they said ‘I’m gonna smash you up’ us guys would be shouting ‘yo blud, what you mean?’ and they would just pull out a blade and juk [stab] you in the chest. It upped the speed and level of violence for us British born guys. We had to arm up to protect ourselves. It became an upward spiral”
This ties in with conversations I have had with rank and file Police Officers in my own area, Hayes. I have been advised that there is a war going on for the trade between the Somalis, Afghans and Eastern European crime gangs which has led to an increase in violence both here and in neighbouring West Drayton.
Secondly, the Police now are hit with barriers they didn’t have before when tackling violent crime. Whilst it is true that funding is an issue, political correctness has manifested itself within the senior levels of the force and has led to reluctance in confronting the fact that both perpetrators and victims come predominantly and disproportionately from minority communities. This has led to the cut back in intelligence led stop and search of gang members because it could be perceived as ‘racist’.
I was once told by a young lady who works for a firm of solicitors in my area that when her clients were arrested, throwing in an accusation of racism against the arresting officer would get them put on limited duties for a while whilst an investigation was carried out, making them think again about carrying out such an arrest next time.
Thirdly, communications channels are now far more widely available and cheaper than they ever were, allowing gangs to organise more quickly and respond to threats to their ‘patch’. Unregistered Pay as You Go mobile phones (known as ‘burners’) are easy to buy for under £20 and can be thrown away and replaced quickly and easily, meaning that the police cannot track or listen in to known high level criminals. Added to the new phenomenon of social media, where gang members taunt each other on line via multiple platforms and ‘drill rap’ videos and it is easy to see how a turf war can be escalated and occur very quickly.
So, what is the answer?
Glasgow had a similar issue with rising crime and has turned itself around via an intelligence led solution where police, youth workers, community leaders and government agencies all worked together to pool resources and tackle the problem at the root, engaging with those vulnerable to getting involved in a life of gangs and crime and turning them away from that path. The Evening Standard have highlighted this during their recent newspaper campaign against the rising death toll in London and deserve credit for doing so – The Mayor could do worse than engage and listen to the people they have spoken with.
There is also a problem where the police no longer have the links to communities that they had back in the seventies and early eighties. Many of the officers I have spoken with locally have been drafted in from other areas and as such need time to get to know what is going on within the communities they are policing. Unfortunately, with the multiple re-arrangements being carried out within the Met, those officers tend to be moved around, as do those in charge of the force in the area. A long term local policing plan where officers are embedded in their areas for a period of years will have the effect of a better understanding on the ground and help to build links with the community.
Finally, both the police and the border agencies need to be given the equipment and the back up to do their job, free of the politically correct dogma we see coming out of both City Hall and Westminster. A criminal is a criminal, irrespective of their race or religion. If the community led campaign fails an individual and they become a hardened gang member and menace to the local community then they need to face the full force of the law upon committing a crime and be removed until they are no longer a threat.
This all takes time, organisation and in some cases, funding. Most of all, it takes the will to want to confront and defeat the root causes of the problem.
By trying to deflect the blame on to ‘middle class drug use at parties’, Sadiq Khan is virtue signalling and ignoring the real reasons behind the crime wave that is hitting our City.
That is a dereliction of his duty to serve and a betrayal of all those affected by violent crime. It is time for him to resign and allow somebody with the guts and drive to replace him to get a grip before more young lives are needlessly lost.