Spike in violence due to change in the nature of crime, not police numbers, insists Minister

A Home Office minister has blamed a change in the nature of crime, rather than cuts in police numbers, for the recent spike in gang-related violence in London and other cities.

Victoria Atkins’s comments came as London Mayor Sadiq Khan admitted that it could take 10 years to turn round the problem in the capital, where 116 homicides have been recorded this year.

Speaking after the fatal stabbing of a man in Anerley, south London, on Sunday, Mr Khan said that local leaders need to be more successful in lobbying the Government for more money for policing.

And he warned that children as young as primary school age are now carrying knives and joining criminal gangs.

Mr Khan told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The Home Office’s own officials, in a leaked document, said there is a link between police officer numbers going down and crime going up.

“The cross-party Home Affairs Select Committee published a scathing report two weeks ago talking about the link between a cut in police resources and the increase in crime.

“The most senior police officers in the country have said it’s naive to think there’s not a link between cutting police numbers and an increase in violent crime.

“We’ve got to be more successful in lobbying this Government to invest in policing.”

But Ms Atkins said that an intensive Government review had shown that “the claim about police numbers isn’t supported by the evidence of previous spikes in serious violence”.

“In the late 2000s there was a similar spike in violence and there were many, many more police officers on the streets in that day and age,” she said.

Ms Atkins told Today: “We are all, I think, realising that the nature of crime is changing.

“Of course, violence has been around as long as human beings have been around, but we have seen – and the Met Commissioner herself has talked about – the ways in which gangs are much more ruthless than they used to be.

“The levels of violence which doctors are now seeing in A&Es show that incidents which before perhaps wouldn’t have resulted in fatalities now are resulting in fatalities.

“Gangs are behind the vast majority of these murders, and the gang leaders are using social media to communicate … using mobile communications in a way that 10 or even five years ago simply wasn’t possible.

“We and the police and others have to face up to the reality that criminals are changing their crime types and we have to be able to tackle that.”

Ms Atkins played down the argument of National Police Chiefs’ Council chairwoman Sara Thornton that political concentration on hate crimes like misogyny were distracting stretched forces’ focus away from core policing priorities.

She insisted that that the launch of a Law Commission review of hate crime did not alter the fact that policing priorities were a matter for local chief constables and police and crime commissioners to determine.

Mr Khan said he was following a strategy pioneered in Glasgow to tackle knife violence and gangs, which was initiated in 2005 and is now showing results.

Police were working “collegiately” with councils, the NHS, social services, the education system and the Government in a way which gave him “confidence” that the problem would be solved, he said.

But he added: “It will take some time. I know that because of the lessons we’ve learnt from places like Glasgow, where it took them some time to turn this round.

“To really make significant progress can take up to 10 years, a generation. They saw in Scotland what we are seeing in London, which is children in primary schools thinking not only is it OK to carry a knife, but it gives them a sense of belonging in joining a criminal gang and it makes them feel safer and they see nothing wrong in getting involved in this sort of behaviour.

“On one hand, we’ve got to be tough in relation to enforcement. That’s why we’ve got officers as part of the violent crime task force doing intelligence-led stop and search, taking knives off our streets, guns off our streets, making arrests.

“At the same time, on the other hand, we’ve got to give young people constructive things to do, investing in youth centres, youth workers, after-school clubs.”

Crime spree caused by insane government policy

Crime-statistics

Adults who left prison in 2010 after serving less than a year behind bars went on to commit more than 80,000 crimes in the 12 months following their release, new figures revealed.

The Ministry of Justice found that 83,107 crimes were carried out by those who were in jail for less than 12 months, compared with 3,346 by those in prison for four years or more.

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling blamed a lack of support and supervision for released prisoners for the reoffending rates, and vowed to bring about substantial changes to help break the “depressing cycle of offending”.

The statistics showed that those released in 2010 after less than 12 months in prison were responsible for 29,098 thefts, 10,494 violent crimes and 3,862 burglaries.

These dropped to 605 thefts, 472 violent crimes and 492 burglaries in the 12 months after release for those who served four years or more.

Prisoners jailed for less than a year also committed 460 sexual crimes and 51 sexual crimes against children, figures which dropped to 71 sexual crimes and 31 sexual crimes against children for those released after four or more years.

The statistics come after it was announced last week that criminals who had previously been jailed for at least a year were responsible for 208,699 offences in the 12 months up to September 2012 – including more than 35,000 violent crimes, nearly 66,000 burglaries, robberies and thefts and more than 6,500 sexual offences.

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said of the most recent statistics: “These figures show that it is the very people who are most likely to reoffend are the ones who are at present let out of prison without any sort of supervision and without any sort of support other than £46 in their pocket.

“Is it any wonder that so many of them just end up going round and round the criminal justice system in a depressing cycle of offending.

“It is clear the way we do things have to change, and I’ll be setting out shortly how we do just that.”

Earlier this year Mr Grayling unveiled plans to revamp the rehabilitation of former prisoners by allowing private firms to take on contracts on a payment-by-results basis.

Reforms could be introduced in today’s Queen’s Speech.

Mark Leech, editor of Converse the national prisons newspapers said it was Government policy which incited reoffending.

“We release about 130,000 prisoners a year and give to each a small amount of money called a Discharge Grant – in real terms its about forty-six pounds, or less than ONE week of income support.

“We then ban former prisoners from claiming benefits for TWO weeks, and throw our hands up in horror when they turn to crime to survive.

“It is this insane government policy that incites reoffending, and its nothing new  – they’ve known about this since a Government report in 2002 and yet nothing has changed.”

Mr Leech also commented that supervising those serving under 12 months was a ‘red herring’ which would achieve little.

“Those serving under 12 months are typically drug offenders, committing opportunistic acquisitive crime to fund drug habits, when caught they are sentenced to short term sentences because that is what the crimes they commit warrant.

“Putting them on probation supervision is a red herring, it will only stretch an already over-burdened Probation Service even further and achieve little in terms of reducing their offending – so much of what this Coalition Government has done is about the appearance of progress rather than the delivery of it.”