Theresa May insists police cuts have ‘no direct correlation’ to knife crime


Prime Minister in denial or just clueless?

Cuts in policing Knife attacks on teenagers up by 93% in five years, figures show. Over 20,000 police officers have been axed by Tory governments since 2010

Theresa May denied claims that police cuts are linked to the latest wave of fatal stabbings in London and the UK.

Mrs May, as she pledged a cross-government response to knife crime focusing on its causes, insisted there was “no direct correlation between certain crimes and police numbers”.

But Scotland Yard Deputy Assistant Commissioner Graham McNulty appeared to make a thinly-veiled plea for more officers.

In a statement outside the Met Police headquarters on Monday afternoon, he said:


“extra police officers did make a difference in tackling the problem.

An episode of Channel 4’s Dispatches, to be broadcast at 8pm on Monday, claims that homicides using a knife committed by those under 18 years of age rose by 77% from 2016-2018.

The programme, presented by the former commissioner of the Metropolitan police, Lord Hogan-Howe, will say that murder and manslaughter where the attacker was aged 18 or under used a knife rose by 77% in the last two years from 26 to 46 incidents.

Rape and sexual offences where a knife was used by someone aged 18 or under rose by 38% to a total of 46, and robbery offences where a knife was used rose by over 50%, to 999 crimes.

Labour’s shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said: “Over 20,000 police officers have been axed by Tory governments since 2010. All of these have contributed to the rise in violent crime, and undermined the police’s ability to tackle it.”

And John Sutherland, a retired Met chief, said of Mrs May’s comments: “I take no pleasure in saying it, but this is simply not correct. To suggest that there is no correlation between police numbers and crime numbers is to deny both common sense and the professional experience of thousands of police officers, my own included.”

Three charts that tell the story.

How have police officer numbers changed Source: Home Office, year ending September

Since 2010, police numbers have decreased by almost 20,000.

Prime Minister Theresa May has said there is no “direct correlation” between the rise in knife crime and a fall in police numbers, but the issue is contested.

Last year, a Home Affairs Committee report said police forces were “struggling to cope” amid falling staff numbers and a leaked Home Office document said they had “likely contributed” to a rise in serious violent crime.

Total knife offences in England and Wales

Total knife offences in England and Wales
Source: Home Office, year ending March except 2017 and 2018 which are year ending September. Figures exclude Greater Manchester.

There were 42,957 offences in the 12 months ending in September 2018, a 31% increase on the previous year and the highest number since 2011, the earliest point for which comparable data is available.

Out of the 44 police forces, 42 recorded a rise in knife crime since 2011.

What has happened to stop and searches?

What has happened to stop and searches

The explanations for rising knife crime have ranged from police budget cuts, to gang violence and disputes between drug dealers.

Some have also cited the steep decline in the use by police of stop and search.

The powers enable officers to search people on the street if they have reasonable grounds to suspect they may be carrying weapons, illegal drugs, stolen property or items to be used to commit a crime. People can also be searched without reasonable grounds if a senior officer believes there’s a risk of serious violence in a particular area.

From 2009, the number of stops fell sharply across England and Wales, especially in London, primarily because of concerns that the measures unfairly targeted young black men, wasted police resources and were ineffective at catching criminals.

Theresa May, as home secretary, led efforts to drive down the number of stops, but there’s anecdotal evidence from police that young people are now more inclined to carry knives because of growing confidence they won’t be stopped.

The statistical basis for that is far from clear – but Scotland Yard, with the mayor of London’s support, has begun increasing the use of stop and search again.

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