Stephen Greenhalgh was the Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime in London, and also served as Leader of Hammersmith and Fulham Council.
At the weekend, Shaun Bailey, our Conservative Mayoral candidate, called for “action, not blame” in his article for the Daily Telegraph. This followed on from Sadiq Khan who blamed the “massive hole” caused by government cuts for the fact that there are fewer police officers on London’s streets in 2019 than any time since 2003, despite the population growing by over a million.
When Boris Johnson and I left office in May 2016, crime in the capital had fallen dramatically since 2012. Total recorded crime was down ten per cent, neighbourhood crime was down 18.4 per cent, compared to an 11 per cent reduction in the rest of England and Wales. The number of murders had fallen from 144 in 2008 to 111 in 2015. Sadly under Khan, London is now at a 10 year high for murder and violent crime, whilst knife crime is at now an all time high.
So what are the actions that the Mayor should take to tackle the rising tide of violence and the knife crime epidemic in London? I believe that a ‘can do’ Mayor should develop clear principles for policing. He should develop a Police & Crime Plan that challenges the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) to drive down levels of crime and also challenges London’s Criminal Justice System (CJS) to improve. Finally, the Mayor must use his Mayoral heft to manage the performance of the MPS as well as London’s CJS.
Frankly, I cannot detect any underlying principles that underpin the current Mayor’s approach to policing. Khan campaigned on reducing Stop and Search further but now seems calling for more “intelligence led, targeted Stop and Search” which does not provide the top cover for the Met police to ramp up the use of this tactic. Furthermore, Khan is a past master at buck passing and PR but this is no substitute for solid principles. I outlined my five principles for policing in a speech that I gave at the ACPO conference on 18th June 2014 entitled “Principles for Policing in Austerity. Sadly my speech has seemingly been removed from the City Hall website.
Here are the five principles that enabled Johnson to cut knife crime by a third, gun crime by half, and high volume victim-based neighbourhood crimes by nearly 20 per cent, whilst keeping police officer numbers at around 32,000 despite shrinking police budgets:
- Reduce, Release, Reform. Our guiding philosophy for the policing budget challenge that we faced in London were the three ‘Rs’. We reduced the overhead in policing. Police staff numbers had grown substantially in the boom years and spending more than we needed to on the civilian support services was not sustainable. We released nearly £1 billion from the sale of under-utilised police buildings which allowed us to modernise the remaining estate including a new HQ at Curtis Green, new training facilities at Hendon, and forensic science labs and control room at Lambeth. A staggering £370,000,000 was raised from the sale of New Scotland Yard for investment in modernising the Met, including equipping officers with the latest technology such as tablets and Body Worn Video. Lastly we reformed policing by changing the rank mix ratio so we had more bobbies than ever (26,000) and fewer supervisors and police chiefs. This meant that we can get more officers to the frontline and honour Johnson’s pledge to deploy an extra 2600 police into neighbourhoods.
- Find time to prevent crime. The Met receives 5.25 million calls for service, handles 750,000 crimes and arrests 250,000 people every year with all the risk that entails. However, we always believed that policing our capital city needed to be more than just responding to crime. Preventing crime is the smart way to fight crime. Under Johnson, Londoners’ homes and property became much safer. Burglary fell by 26 per cent between 2012 and 2016 to its lowest level since 1974. Crime prevention tactics such as the use of traceable liquids, cocooning an area after burglary incident, predictive policing for the deployment of neighbourhood officers and electronic tagging of repeat offenders really played their part in this success.
- Compete or commercialise all support services for the police. We encouraged the police to embrace private enterprise and use competition as a way to drive down the cost of support services. We did not believe that it was right that as much as £1 in every £3 is spent on supporting the first public service to do its job. We believed that competitive tendering of policing support services was a moral imperative – not an unfortunate by-product of austerity. Every pound spent on support services that cost too much, is a pound not spent on frontline delivery for the public.
- Decentralize and empower. We believed that the police should decentralize both decision-making and budget responsibility to designated leaders who needed to have full authority but also be held to account for performance. You cannot command and control everything from the HQ. Commissioner Dick must trust her Commanders. Her officers need to stay in the same role for more than six months, ideally two to three years, if individuals are to be held to account and strong relationships built.
- Collaborate and integrate at the local level. The best problem-solving involves really good collaboration with partners and we encouraged the Met to integrate some services with other local public services by pooling budgets at the neighbourhood level. This does mean that sometimes the police will have to follow rather than lead. Tackling gang violence was a key Mayoral priority and police enforcement efforts paid off. Shootings came down by almost half and stabbings came down by a third under Johnson since the Trident Command was launched. But we recognised the need to get better at prevention and diversion, with an effective gang exit offer. The police need to play their role, but they cannot convene local authorities and other statutory agencies or monopolise engagement with the communities that are affected by gang violence. They cannot lead diversion work in schools – even if school safety officers are part of that work. And they simply are not present in children’s centres or family intervention with troubled families where prevention efforts need to start. Prevention and diversion of gangs is an area where the Mayor’s Office for Policing And Crime (MOPAC) should take the lead. The police have to be round the table and they have a critical role in preventing violence, but they cannot always lead. In fact really effective schemes – like the Integrated Gangs Unit in Hackney – have strong police involvement but are led by council staff, alongside probation.
Police and crime plan
The single most important document that the Mayor – with the help of the Deputy Mayor for Policing & Crime – produces is the Police and Crime Plan at the start of their term of office. It is instructive to compare the first Police and Crime Plan for London produced by Johnson in March 2013 with Mayor Khan’s Police and Crime Plan.
Johnson set out a clear mission and priorities for policing and crime reduction in the capital over the period from 2013-2017. At the heart of the first Police and Crime Plan was the Mayor’s 20:20:20 challenge to the Metropolitan Police Service to:
- Cut neighbourhood crime by 20 per cent. The Mayor challenged the MPS to reduce certain crime types, violence with injury, robbery, burglary, theft of and from motor vehicles, theft from the person and criminal damage as a marker of anti-social behaviour. These crimes were known as the MOPAC 7 and all were victim-based offences. Crimes that were typically only discovered by the police such as possession of offensive weapons and drugs offences have been excluded as decreases in these crimes could have indicated reduced police activity rather than less criminal activity.
- Increase confidence in the police by 20 per cent. Johnson set out an ambitious challenge to the MPS to renew the relationship between the police and the public in the capital by increasing confidence, as measured by the Crime Survey of England and Wales.
- Cut costs by 20 per cent. Johnson did not pass the buck or reach for the nearest bleeding stump. Instead he set out a clear intent that the MPS make best use of its budget and provide a more effective service for Londoners, whilst ensuring the best possible value for taxpayers’ money.
Alongside his challenge to the MPS, Johnson set out ambitions for improvement in the wider CJS in London to cut court delays in court by 20 per cent, improve compliance with community orders by 20 per cent, and bring down reoffending by young people leaving custody by 20 per cent. In particular, Johnson led concerted efforts to tackle prolific offenders, who commit a substantial proportion of crime in the capital and placed a severe burden on the CJS.
In contrast Khan’s Police and Crime Plan is feeble. There is no 20:20:20 challenge for the Met police or London’s CJS. Instead “priorities” replaced the hard targets and the call for devolution of London’s CJS has disappeared to make way for a focus on harm/vulnerability which Khan identifies as a big problem but doesn’t propose to measure!
A ‘can do’ Mayor would scrap this toothless plan and replace it with a plan that implements the measures that are needed to curb the violence on the streets of London. This would include a Budget Plan to increase police officer numbers by ten per cent to an all-time high of 33,000, a commitment to move 3000 officers into those areas of London blighted by violence and a plan to ramp up Stop and Search dramatically – to over 500,000 a year. The Mayor should also commit to the widespread rollout of portable scanners to help the police to take the knives off the streets. Mayor Khan also needs to learn the real lessons from Glasgow’s Violence Reduction Unit. The key to stopping the disease, in the first instance, was the widespread use of Stop and Search combined with the use of “Group Violence intervention” where the community challenges the violent gangs to put away the offensive weapons or face the judicial consequences. Preventative policing with officers using the new Knife Crime Prevention Orders in conjunction with GPS tagging is another tactic that should be employed widely in the knife crime hotspots. Only once the disease is stopped, should the Mayor focus on ensuring that there are no new outbreaks of the disease. That is the essence of the “public health” approach to violence reduction.
Managing the performance of the Met police should be a key task of the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC). Johnson agreed the target to cut neighbourhood crime by 20 per cent over four years with the Commissioner whilst enjoying a curry at the Cinnamon Club. Then the MPS performance in cutting crime was scrutinised at quarterly public MOPAC Challenge meetings chaired by Johnson. Other meetings focused on the levels of public confidence in London’s first public service and the use of intrusive tactics such as Taser and stop and search. Through a range of innovative approaches to data, academic evidence, community engagement and transparency we were able to hold both the MPS and London’s CJS to account on behalf of all Londoners.
By failing to establish a performance framework in his Police and Crime Plan, Khan is not in a position to replicate this approach.
A ‘can do’ Mayor needs to focus on the three ‘Ps’ if he wants to take action to tackle the rising tide of violence in London. None of those Ps stands for PR!