OPINION - Too much woke and not enough awake, Sadiq. It’s got to stop

The latest crime statistics for London make for appalling reading.

As the Standard reports, knife and gun crime both jumped by 20 per cent last year. The Office for National Statistics says that 14,626 knife offences were recorded in the capital in the 12 months to the end of December. That’s an average of 40 a day. Gun crime was also up, by nearly 200 on the 1,010 recorded by police a year earlier.

They are the numbers. They provide only an indication of how bad it has become. In truth, Londoners don’t need them — we know already, we’re all too aware that we’re under siege. Whether it’s the roadmen standing by Turnham Green Tube, waiting to follow my son and his pals, and rob them of their Jordan’s, phones, cards, shopping. Or the guys in broad daylight at Barnes Bridge using an angle grinder to cut through the bike locks. Or the shoplifters brazenly strolling into Sweaty Betty, M&S and Boots and helping themselves — we’ve seen all three, and only this morning a man walked to the front of the queue in Gail’s, leaned over and took a handful of pastries and wandered off. Or the group that descended on Terrace Gardens in Richmond and threatened everyone, taking what they wanted and lifting their shirts to reveal what looked like the handles of knives tucked down their waistbands. Or the luxury watches that must remain locked away and the friend who wore his, only to be attacked by three men on two mopeds, brandishing baseball bats, on Putney Common.

That’s us, in a small window of time, in a tiny area of south-west London. There is more, much more. Whether any of it makes the official figures, I doubt. In every instance, no one stopped to challenge, nobody intervened. They were too scared, frightened of being stabbed or shot. We tell our children don’t refuse, do as they ask, don’t fight back, they might be carrying, you never know. Those instances don’t make the league tables. The police will ask whether we knew for certain if they had a knife or gun. We didn’t, so it wasn’t a knife or gun crime.

We go on the chat platforms and a fuller picture emerges. It’s ugly and incessant. There are the same feelings, of fear and helplessness. Once there were police in evidence. Today, we see them in vans parked up in the West End, at football matches and in a convoy protecting a member of the royal family or senior politician, and that’s about all. Back then, as well, there was a police station you could go to, staffed by people who knew the manor. Not anymore.

Same with those on high. London has a Mayor so the Government isn’t bothered; it’s up to him. Sadiq Khan says he cares but gives the impression of caring about the perpetrators and what drove them to do this, rather than us, the victims. We’ve grown tired of Khan, popping up on the news, beseeching and sorrowful at the scene of yet another killing. There he is, the grey of his overcoat in contrast to the yellow of the tape, deep in conversation with senior police.

Khan has his own set of figures: knife crime has increased 38 per cent since he took office eight years ago, during which period stop-and-search has almost halved. He also has his own battle: against the police, not with them.

Too often Khan appears at their side but not on their side, not encouraging, not empowering. They require more officers; we require more officers. We want ones, too, who know the borough; junior constables who patrol the streets, seniors who speak with knowledge and sense, with councils and with us, reassuring and promising.

From Khan we’ve had too much woke and not enough awake. That’s got to stop. Less Gaza and more here, in our streets and backstreets. Schools should have knife detection equipment, of course they should. Frontline police should have the same, instant and easy to use, of course they should.

When the police target something the result is usually positive — so after what felt like an age the Met went after the moped gangs and, guess what, crimes involving the use of mopeds fell. But it should not be a one-off. We need these specialist police units now, all the time. What might be a minor crime to them isn’t to us. When the bikes were stolen from our front, from a padlocked locker, the police asked two questions: did anyone see anything and was there CCTV? The answers were “no” and “no”. They sent someone round to dust for fingerprints. There weren’t any. “Professionals,” he said. That was it, there was nothing they could do. All they could suggest was that we went on bike sale platforms to see if we could spot them. File closed. We sought empathy and received none; it didn’t matter, move on.

A few streets away, in the big houses, they have invested in private security who patrol in vans with dogs. That’s Khan’s London, divided between the haves and the have nots: have guards and peace of mind, and the have nots with increasingly little left.