Stephen Greenhalgh was the Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime in London, and has also served as Leader of Hammersmith and Fulham Council.
After yet another bloody weekend in the capital, Mayor Sadiq Khan has announced another in his long line of timid pilot projects. This one to tag, using the Global Positioning System, only 100 habitual knife-crime criminals in just four London boroughs when they leave prison in order to reduce their re-offending. In The Times, Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, has called for collective action to prevent violent crime from “scarring our society, terrorising our communities, and, most devastatingly, destroying the lives of our next generation.”
The Home Secretary has made a commitment to do everything in his power to give those on the front line of the fight, the tools they need to end the bloodshed. He has backed this up with the announcement of the knife crime prevention orders in response to the police wanting more powers to help them divert young people away from the dangers of knife crime.
So why is the London Mayor not using GPS tagging in combination with these new civil orders? Perhaps the Home Secretary can put this to the Mayor, in the cross-party serious violence taskforce that he is convening today. This is yet another example of the Mayor focusing on PR rather than the measures that will do something to stem the bloodshed on London’s streets. GPS tagging has been around for years and should be rolled out far more widely – not just to reduce re-offending but also with preventative measures such as these new knife crime prevention orders, gang injunctions, and criminal behaviour orders. With the murder rate and knife crime at a 10 year high, Londoners deserve a Mayor who prioritises the prevention of knife crime.
However, we also need more police officers in our capital city. This Home Secretary has risen to the challenge and is providing the biggest increase in police budgets since 2010. Police and Crime Commissioners all over the country are planning to recruit thousands more officers. However, the Mayor of London has let police officers fall to below 30,000 from at or around 32,000 when Mayor Johnson left office in 2016. This is despite receiving a flat cash settlement from the Home Office. The Mayor needs to have a budget plan to increase officer numbers dramatically and this will not emerge with more pointless PR. Under Mayor Johnson we had a plan to release under-utilised police buildings, reduce overhead, and reform the policing model to keep police officer numbers high in spite of having £100 million less to spend each year.
Finally, if we are going to stem this mindless violence, our candidate for Mayor, Shaun Bailey, should pledge to bring in the technology developed by British scientists that allows frontline officers to carry scanners which enable them to detect knives and guns beneath clothing. These portable scanners can differentiate knives from everyday items such as keys. A widespread roll-out of this technology will give the police another tool that will enable the Met to ramp up intelligence-led and targeted stop and search so that we can get the knives off the streets of our capital city.