I don’t need telling, I know I’m a dinosaur, but 30 years pounding the mean streets of London, locking people up for doing bad things, qualifies me to know a bad thing when I see it. The current rate of Knife and Gun Crime almost anywhere in England and Wales is a bad thing. Even counties where it is not particularly high, or even low, the trend is still seemingly increasing year upon year.
I recently pestered every single Force in England and Wales and asked them how many deaths and injuries could be attributed to the illegal use of Knives (or other sharp, pointy stabby things) or any kind of firearm.
Most, but not all, have responded. A small number claimed that their crime recording systems could not give me an answer to my questions within the financial cost limit (£450). One large Force close to London but not the Met even referred me to the Coroner for an answer. As an aside, it’s quite shabby that not all Forces can readily pull out the kind of figures I was asking for without a manual search of the records.
After the latest tragedy in South London the mother of the 17 year old victim is even blaming the Police for not protecting her son. Why would she do that? The poor lady was clearly, and understandably, exceedingly distraught. However, it remains a fact, regardless of your politics, that we have lost more than 21,000 Police Officers in England and Wales since 2010. More are scheduled to be lost in the coming years to 2020 unless policy is reversed.
21,000 Police Officers, what does that look like? It looks exactly like the areas shaded pink below not having a single Police Officer at any time of the day or night. Not one single officer
Just let that sink in a moment.
Back in 19 hundred and frozen to death we had Juvenile Bureaux, Schools Involvement Officers, Home Beats (SNT etc in modern parlance). All things that got Police Officers and young kids talking. I honestly believe that I am responsible for saving more than one young person’s life. Nothing to do with Knife and Gun Crime but the same principle applies. I was sent on a week’s course in Norf Larndarn to teach me how to interact with young kids, of a variety of ages, in the classroom environment. This was followed by a short attachment to a school, full days, can’t remember how many. I then engaged with kids (mainly Secondary School) and persuaded them that it was a very bad idea to play on the railway tracks, swim in quarries or gravel pits, take drugs etc etc. Surely it is far from impossible to do the same with Knives and Guns. Only it isn’t possible is it? Cruella has seen to that. 21,000 fewer officers mean that proactivity is a thing of the past, consigned to the museums. Front Line Response Teams do not have the capacity to mount proactive operations any more, no matter how good the intelligence is. London’s Intelligence Units are rapidly being centralised, or it may already have happened. Local Knowledge is a thing of the past.
There is absolutely NO WAY that dedicated offers will be reintroduced into schools to educate them. We used to show them films, sometimes hard-hitting, uncomfortable films, to educate them of the risks associated with the fashionable behaviours of the day. That would not be possible now. I’m sure there is adequate material to show, demonstrate or talk about, but nobody left to do it. Even the PCSOs are being decimated, they couldn’t take it on either. It might not be a rufty tufty front line role but it saves lives.
So, back to the beginning, regardless of one’s politics there are, at least, two irrefutable facts.
1) Police Numbers in England and Wales are steadily dropping and will continue to do so
2) Knife and Gun Crime in England and Wales is steadily rising
I totally content to leave it to others, more highly qualified than I, to tell me if there is any correlation, but my Copper’s Instinct tells me that there might be.
Wether they are fashionable and popular or not, there are ways to tackle this onslaught on our streets, but none of them will work with 21,000 fewer officers. It is time that ALL Chief Officers spoke out about the cuts. I’m sure the public would prefer to hear unadulterated truth than Smoke and Mirrors. It also time that Central Government put aside their vendetta and complied with their 1st Duty of Government – To protect the Public. That also cannot happen with 21,000 fewer officers.
I will not be holding my breath waiting for either of the above suggestions to be implemented.