Crime in London has increased at a lower rate than other areas of the country

A video was uploaded to the Conservative Party’s official X (formerly Twitter) account which was critical of London Mayor Sadiq Khan.

The video was captioned FACT: London under Labour has become a crime capital of the world.

The original video was removed from the account after some of the footage was found to be of people on the New York Metro, rather than from London.

The replacement has an ominous US-accented narrator describing London as having seen an increase in violent crime, and knife crime in particular, along with a larger number of deaths from drug abuse.

Evaluation: Misleading

The video makes several misleading claims about crime in London, and ignores the context of rising crime rates across England and Wales.

The facts

London is covered by three police forces – the Metropolitan Police, City of London Police and British Transport Police (BTP). The Met handles the vast majority of crime in London (99% of crime dealt with by the two territorial police forces) as the City of London Police only covers a small area in the centre of the capital.

Meanwhile, statistics for the BTP are generally not presented at a local level, and the number of crimes recorded by the BTP across England and Wales is only around 8% of that recorded by the Met.

The Mayor does play a significant role in deciding how the Met is run – but the Home Secretary, a member of the Conservative party, also holds some responsibility.

In the governance structure of the Met, ultimate accountability for the actions and direction of the force is held jointly by the Home Secretary and the Mayor. The Home Secretary appoints the Met Commissioner – the top job in the police force – although the Mayor has a “direct mandate for policing in London” and is responsible for deciding on the “strategic direction” of the force.

Sadiq Khan was elected Mayor of London in May 2016. Since then, crime in London appears to have risen at a slower rate than in other parts of England and Wales, particularly for the offence categories highlighted in the video.

The total recorded crime rate – a crude rate of all types of crime, excluding fraud – increased by more than a third (35%) between March 2016 and September 2023 across England and Wales. Over the same period, crime in London increased by around 18%.

This difference is more pronounced when looking specifically at violent crime, a focus of the Conservatives’ post.

In March 2016, the Met recorded the third-highest rate of violent crime across England and Wales, at 21.8 incidents per 100,000 people. By last September, this figure had grown to 27.9 – but a significant national rise means the area covered by the force now ranks 31st in violent crime when compared to 42 other police force areas in England and Wales. Rates for individual types of crime were not available for the City of London alone.

The Conservatives’ video also references a 54% increase in knife crime in London. This is correct – the number of violent crimes involving a knife or sharp object rose from 9,086 to 14,000 over this period when looking at both the Met and City of London Police together. But this remains on trend with the rest of the country, which has seen a rise of 57%.

Other police forces covering large urban areas have seen similar or higher rises, such as West Yorkshire (50%), the West Midlands (77%) and Merseyside (78%). Figures are not available for Greater Manchester.

The Office for National Statistics says increases in recorded crime should be taken with a pinch of salt, as they may have arisen from better recording practices by police forces and a wider number of offences being counted. Other approaches to measuring crime, such as the Crime Survey of England and Wales, suggest overall crime levels have fallen across the two countries during this period.

In addition, the narrator of the attack advert tells us that Mr Khan wants to decriminalise the use of illegal drugs – a reference to his support for exploring the decriminalisation of cannabis – while London’s drug death rate is at a record high. This latter statement is correct – the rate of deaths from drug misuse hit 39.8 per 100,000 people in 2022, the highest figure since 1998.

However, a vanishingly small number of drug deaths are linked to cannabis. The same data shows that of 4,907 deaths from drug poisoning in England and Wales in 2022, just 32 contained a mention of cannabis on the death certificate – and in these cases other substances may have contributed more significantly.

The Conservative candidate for the upcoming London Mayoral election, Susan Hall, has since distanced herself from the original advert, saying it came from the Conservative Party headquarters.

The Conservative Party has been contacted for comment.

Links

An extract of the deleted video (archived extract and video)

The new video, on the Conservative Party’s official X account (archived post and video)

How the Met Police is governed, Met Police website (archived)

Met Police jurisdiction information, Met Police website (archived)

Police force area data tables for recorded crime

Police force area recorded crime data for the year ending March 2016, .xls download (archived)

Police force area recorded crime data for the year ending September 2023, .xls download (archived)

Deaths related to drug poisoning, England and Wales (archived)

BBC article on the original video (archived)