Senior officer suggests austerity fuelled surge in violent crime

Vikram Dodd Police and crime correspondent
Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA

Funding cuts to police and public services that previously helped stop people, especially the young, from offending has helped fuel the surge in violent crime, a police chief has said.

Supt Darius Hemmatpour of Scotland Yard’s violent crime task force, said stabbings and other life-threatening attacks in London spiked after 2017, and suggested that austerity was a factor.

Speaking at the Police Superintendents’ Association annual conference he said: “Austerity has obviously impacted on individual families and households.

“Public sector services were cut. There comes a point that services previously available were no longer there.

“People on the edge of criminality may have previously had an intervention that may have diverted them away, but with the loss of those services, that intervention was not there.”

Related: Knife crime is linked to Tory austerity, Sadiq Khan to say

He added: “If you take 20,000 police officers off the streets of England and Wales, because of austerity, that creates a void.”

Hemmatpour’s comments echo statements from others in policing, linking violent crime to the effects of austerity. He said a massive focus and deployment of resources was now slowly reversing the trend for those aged under 25.


Boris Johnson has pledged to recruit 20,000 police officers over the next three years, the exact amount lost after funding cuts by previous Conservative governments since 2010. Senior ministers claimed at the time that crime would not rise, but the most serious offences did.

Hemmatpour said changes in drugs markets were also a factor, with phenomenon’s such as county lines leading to violence between competing drugs gangs.

He said knife victims were suffering more ferocious injuries, with surgeons reporting up to eight woulds inflicted in an attack: “Five years ago you would see two to three knife wounds, now there are seven to eight.”

He added that disputes were becoming more intense, fuelled by social media: “Before there might be a punch. What social media has done is antagonise people, you can really rile people.

“I’m not sure killing someone is in the thought process, to say: ‘That was my endgame’. I just think it is done with such hatred and venom, the reality and the severity of those stab wounds lend themself to homicide.”

Weapons being used now include “Rambo-style knives”, tornado and zombie knives, Hemmatpour said.

Met chiefs have said they wanted to cut the level of stabbings, especially those suffered by those under 25 years of age. Hemmatpour said there were now 370 fewer victims under 25 because of a phalanx of measures but the level was still too high.

Stop and search was a vital tactic, he added, with the Met having increased its use to 25,000 a month as well as expanding the use of section 60 powers which allow stops without reasonable suspicion.

Related: Knife crime is a real problem, but stop and search isn't the solution | Katrina Ffrench

In one day, Sunday, police started investigations into three deaths in London following a drive-by shooting in north-west London, the fatal stabbing of a mother also in north-west London, and the death of a man in south-east London who died after being hit by a bullet he had fired which ricocheted off a nearby car.

Privately, despite all the extra effort, police think the level of homicides in London this year is on course to be around the same as the 135 killings seen in 2018.