To defeat violent crime in London we need a new policing plan

Gerry Campbell

I am a proud former Metropolitan police officer with 30 years’ experience, having served in all ranks from constable to chief superintendent. I was a borough commander and head of the Pan-London Taskforce, tackling knife crime, serious violence and gangs.

It deeply concerns me that London is in the grip of a serious violence emergency, with no glimmer of hope of it ending any time soon. There have been six murders in London since the start of January; we have a long way to go in making the city safe. In recent memory, I have not seen a situation like today’s. The last year has seen an increase in crimes recorded by the Met, of which more than 15,000 were knife offences. It’s shocking to see the huge number of knives being recovered from people, vehicles and public places such as play areas. In 2019 there were 149 homicides; the highest number in 11 years. In the last two years there have been 44 domestic abuse murders.

Something has gone seriously wrong in London. Violent crime is becoming normalised. We cannot become desensitised to the hurt, devastation and scarring caused by this emergency. What is not in doubt is the commitment and effort of our police officers. They are working hard and putting their lives on the line. There are simply not enough officers and they no longer have the capacity to problem-solve to prevent crime in a sustained way. Relationships with communities are weakening too.

Where has it gone wrong? The responsibility in London lies with its executive leaders. Only action by the right people using the right approach will prevent and tackle violent crime. The decision to withdraw officers from communities, shut police stations and move from a borough-based model has had the predictable result: we don’t see officers and, crucially, nor do the criminals.

Former Tory MP Rory Stewart speaks in Seven Kings, where three people died after being stabbed (PA)

The answer lies with leadership, accountability and action. Having met Rory Stewart, discussed his plans, walked the streets with him, and seen his drive, passion and energy, I know he understands this. He plans more neighbourhood officers, with an emphasis on getting police out on patrol at a borough level, backed by a well resourced neighbourhood surge unit that can be deployed to crime hotspots to stop violence and prevent crime before it happens — or respond in force to major incidents, alongside neighbourhood officers. The plan will increase the police’s presence while building and maintaining local relationships.

Stewart’s proposal to build a cadre of experienced ex-officers to mentor new recruits is also welcome. There is no substitute for experience. They will be critical in teaching new officers as the Met grows. Policing is about deploying and empowering officers intelligently and visibly, and supporting them. Rory Stewart is a man on a mission to deliver for London. This is why I am supporting him to be the next Mayor.

Gerry Campbell has been advising Rory Stewart on his policing plan