Andrew Boff is seeking the nomination to be the Conservative candidate for Mayor of London. He is a member of the London Assembly.
In May 2010 there were 400 offences in London involving a weapon. From then until March 2015 those monthly numbers were less than that for all but three months. But since March 2015, they have risen, peaking at 710 in May last year. The trend is inexorably upwards.
In the last year for which figures are available, to July 2018, there were just over a 254,000 offences involving violence against a person, up from 233,000 in the year to July 2016. Comparing the murder rate for the same periods, 137 people lost their lives in the last 12 months against 97 in the year which ended as Sadiq Khan became Mayor.
It is clear from the work of the Police and many other agencies, that the underlying cause of this increase in violent crime is the emergence of a gang culture operating for profit and seeking to control territory for drug dealing both in London and beyond through “County Lines” operations.
We will only turn this around if we tackle the issue of violent crime at its root, and that means dealing with the environmental and societal issues which lead to the establishment of these gangs.
In 2005 Glasgow was identified by the UN as the murder capital of Europe. Murder and violent crime had risen and A&E departments would have patients with stab wounds being brought in several times a day. The Scottish government realised that the old approach was futile, outdated, and in need of change.
In 2005, Karyn McCluskey (chief analyst for Strathclyde police) presented a report which argued that the policing methods of the time were ineffective. She found a myriad of issues that caused violent crime: “alcohol abuse, inequality and toxic masculinity”, all of which the police were ill-equipped to deal with.
Her findings led her to research anti-violent crime programmes across the world and pick the best parts of those programs to create the Violence Reduction Unit. The incredible innovation which the program provided was that it began to treat violent crime as a “public health” issue and not a criminal one. It widened the pool of those addressing violent crime beyond just the police. It included Councils, helping with housing issues and helping people find jobs, and the NHS too, providing mental health support and offering counselling. In the eight years after the Violence Reduction Unit was introduced, the murder rate fell by 60 per cent and treatment for wounding injuries halved.
I believe that such a proven system has the ability to work in London. So I plan to chair a London Violence Reduction Commission. This Commission will promote early intervention with troubled families to prevent escalation of difficulties, linked with higher-profile policing and an increase in stop and search. It will work with the NHS to identify people at risk and it will disrupt gang activities. Last but not least it will focus more on mental health and domestic violence, which often create the environment which pushes young and vulnerable people towards gangs. You see, it is my firm belief that the rise of violent crime in London is a symptom of a much deeper problem: social exclusion and a dangerous uncertainty about the future.
Young men and boys from working class families (yes, the significant majority of these perpetrators are young males) feel like they have been abandoned. They grow up in areas in which crime is rife and indeed glorified by their peers and the people who they look up to. In most instances crime is the only route they see to a prosperous future. They feel disenfranchised and detest “the establishment”. Only by giving these young people tools which they can use to build a prosperous future outside crime, will we give them hope. By getting them involved with communities outside of gangs, like sports clubs and by helping them to find jobs, this way, the uncertainty which plagues their lives will also be lessened. They will no longer have to worry about putting food on the table.
Labour and Sadiq Khan have refused to adopt this approach. They seem intent on blaming the Government for cuts to the Police, rather than using the tools available to them to actually address the problem in front of them. We have to change the culture one person, one family at a time.
My plan to reduce violent crime in London seeks to provide everyone who is affected by this problem – no matter the colour of the skin, their faith or background – with a helping hand and not a hand out. By helping individuals and then families better themselves, soon enough we have a large and diverse group of people who are no longer a menace to society, but rather who contribute to it. This would create a domino effect. Just as now it is the gang and crime which offers a future, when the disenfranchised youth of London sees that their peers have managed to better their lives, they too will have hope for a better future, and with the right support, will have the tools and skills to improve their own lives too.
All in all, the rise of violent crime in London is an emergency and thus ought to be treated us such. The neglect of young people which leads to their disenfranchisement and utter contempt for the status quo is one of the main causes of this. This has to be tackled at its root and by establishing and chairing the London Violence Reduction Commission, I will show how seriously I take this issue. And by curing the disease of violent crime, we will be able to restore peace in the greatest city in the world.