David Burrowes is MP for Enfield Southgate and an Executive Member of the 1922 Committee.
In April 2011, a 15-year-old called Negus McClean was stabbed to death in Enfield. He was killed by rival gang members. When sentencing the four teenagers convicted of Negus’ murder, the Judge revealed that they had stabbed their victim so many times, and with such force, that the blade on one of the knives they were using, snapped off.
This appalling crime prompted a national campaign led by my former colleague Nick de Bois and me to toughen up knife crime sentences. We had great support from Boris and, despite the obstacle of Lib Dems in the Coalition Government, we were successful in getting mandatory sentences for repeat knife offenders. It sends a clear message: carrying a knife will not be tolerated. But tough sentences will not alone combat knife crime. We need a London Mayor who can take a lead on policing and violent crime. We need a strategy for knife and gang crime which involves prevention, enforcement and rehabilitation. Boris has provided that leadership and strategy. Whilst this last year has been a particular challenge in tackling violent crime, Boris has made a real difference and has helped turn the tide of knife and gang related crime.
In London, crime is down by 18 per cent, with 155,177 fewer offences reported. Broken down, that means that Londoners are 24 per cent less likely to fall victim to neighbourhood crimes compared with 2012. But for me, representing a borough which has been so affected by youth violence, the most important statistic from Boris’ time as Mayor is this: youth violence is down 32 per cent since 2008, and youth reoffending is down from 70 per cent in 2012 to 56 per cent today.
Boris is known for pushing conventional boundaries and that is what has happened in policing and crime. Most police and crime commissioners keep within their title and brief, but Boris has recognised the need to also tackle reoffending through reforms of the criminal justice system. He introduced new measures such as a £1.5 million London-wide gang exit programme; a programme to pay resettlement brokers and charities for reducing offending of young offenders released from HMYOI Feltham, sobriety tags for alcohol related offenders and GPS tagging. Many of these innovations have been rolled out on a national level as the Government bears down on violent crime and repeat offending.
Boris has been Mayor during unprecedented challenges to our security and it is a mark of his leadership that public confidence in the Metropolitan Police has increased by 8 per cent. It is also a source of pride that under a Comservative Mayor police recruitment from BME communities has more than doubled, and a quarter of the force is now female. It matters as a matter of principle and also practice. Police officers protecting communities in boroughs like Enfield are more likely to be accepted and respected when they look and sound more like those they are employed to serve.
Boris has also been Mayor during unprecedented financial challenges. Additionally he has faced a legacy left by Ken Livingstone which ignored the policing demands of outer boroughs like Enfield. As a result of Boris and the Met Commissioner’s strong resolve combined with a constructive relationship with the Government, 2,600 additional frontline officers are on the beat. They have not been paid for by a Sadiq Khan-style spending hole, but through the Mayor’s sensible decision to raise revenue by releasing into the private sector, underused buildings, as well as through making efficiency savings. Much criticised by people like Livingstone at the time, those decisions gave Boris the financial breathing space to provide the Met with extra cash, allowing officers the opportunity to take advantage of changes in technology – to buy body-worn cameras and most importantly of all – it allowed Boris to set the retention of front-line officers as his number one police priority. It was an objective he not only met but exceeded.
It is vital for all Londoners that Zac Goldsmith wins office on 5th May so that our capital city continues to be a safer place to live, work or visit. I have already seen Zac take on Boris’ crime fighting mantle, by protecting the police budget against planned cuts and tackling knife crime by restricting online knife sales to children and getting “Zombie killer” knives banned. The best way we can show our gratitude for Boris’ 8 years tackling violent crime and supporting more effective policing and criminal justice is to vote for Zac on Thursday.