The western world is undergoing a surprising shift, as London crime numbers begin to surpass those of New York. News of the latest figures come as a shock to many, given that in the 90s, the American city was renowned for its high crime-rates, which seemed to be synonymous with the decade’s crack cocaine epidemic.
But now, the British capital has become significantly more dangerous than its transatlantic counterpart. Whilst both London and New York have populations of roughly 8 million, statistics reveal that you are almost six times as likely to be burgled, and one and a half times more likely to be robbed in London. The number of reported rapes is also three times higher in the UK capital, and, although the New York murder rate remains higher (no doubt the result of the ever-controversial second amendment), the number of fatal attacks in London is beginning to catch up with those in the Big Apple.
Many are curious about how and why this reversal has taken place. Both Scotland Yard and the New York City Police Department (NYPD) have just over 30,000 officers and budgets of around £3 billion a year. So why does London have a higher crime rate? Characteristically, Donald Trump blames “Radical Islamist terror”. But, some much more likely causes include:
A drop in neighbourhood patrols
Lately, what’s known as the ‘neighbourhood policing model’, whereby officers patrol neighbourhoods across the capital, is becoming less popular within the Metropolitan police. Instead, officials favour only following up more serious offenses. Criminal justice experts believe that in this preference lies the key to London’s soaring crime rates.
Swathes of dwellings and commercial buildings are left dangerously exposed as police patrols dwindle. Some security companies staying abreast of crime trends are responding to this oversight: CMS Keyholding send out SIA trained Key Guards, who provide routine security patrols—something that more and more businesses and private individuals are taking advantage of in lieu of police surveillance.
Scotland Yard cost cutting measures
In October 2017, Scotland Yard defended their controversial cost cutting measure whereby police may no longer investigate crimes classed as ‘low-level’; in other words, those in which victims have suffered loss or damage valued at below £50.
This is all part of a drive for the Metropolitan police to save £400m before 2020. In the interests of such a saving, for the first time in over 10 years, the number of police officers in London is set to fall below 30,000. This approach is the opposite to that which was so effectively implemented in New York, when the NYPD introduced a zero tolerance approach to low level crime, alongside filling problemed areas with patrols.
That said, this strategy, known as ‘proactive’ policing, is controversial. Many believe that the practice of aggressively punishing minor crimes, as well as boosting officer numbers in problemed areas and increasing police stops and arrests, can actually have discriminatory and problematic outcomes. This approach, which has previously been favoured by the Met, came under scrutiny when new research revealed that, during the seven week period when the ‘proactive’ policy was suspended, serious crime fell by up to six per cent.
Inner-city crime, clearly, has no obvious antidote. But London’s statistics speak for themselves, and suggest that either disproportionally penalising those who have committed low-level crimes, or, entirely failing to follow up small-scale robberies, will lead to an unsafe environment.
Increasing knife crime
If low-level crime in the capital is multiplying at an alarming rate, this is nothing in comparison with the chilling increase in serious offenses, many of which affect the city’s younger inhabitants. There have been a total of 18 fatal stabbings involving teenagers in London in 2017 alone. The bereaved family of one recent victim believes that the capital has become “out of control,” and blames a lack of education for the current crisis: “We need to educate young people early on around the dangers of carrying knives in public places.”
Back in June of this year, Mayor Sadiq Khan pledged an extra £625,000 to fund anti-knife and gang crime projects in London after the number of offences involving knives in the city rose by 24 percent last year. But, as the capital remains cowed by such fatal attacks, the initiative seems to be failing.
So the causes of London’s increasingly dire crime-rates are apparently as various as the possible solutions. But we can say with confidence that the city and its inhabitants are entitled to better protection. Currently, London, for all its glory, runs the risk of becoming world-renowned for all the wrong reasons.