Britain unveils plan to tackle violent crimes

Govt brushes off suggestion that spike in cases is due to police cuts

LONDON • Britain's government unveiled a new anti-violent-crime strategy yesterday after a surge of stabbings and shootings in London, but sought to brush off a leaked document suggesting cuts to police numbers were a contributing factor.

Interior Minister Amber Rudd promised to do "whatever it takes" to tackle a wave of violence that has pushed the capital's murder rate - at more than 50 this year - higher than New York's.

The strategy, backed by £40 million (S$74 million) of funding, aims to steer young people away from crime and tackle violent drug-dealing gangs.

The government has rejected criticism that the increase in crime is a result of years of cuts to police funding, despite a leaked document from Ms Rudd's own ministry highlighting this as a cause.

The document, drawn up in February and revealed in The Guardian newspaper, notes that resources dedicated to serious violence have been squeezed and this "may have encouraged offenders".

It said this was "unlikely to be the factor that triggered the shift in serious violence, but may be an underlying driver that has allowed the rise to continue", adding in summary: "Not the main driver but has likely contributed."

COMMUNITY PROJECTS

As a government, we will never stand by while acid is thrown or knives wielded. I am clear that we must do whatever it takes to tackle this so that no parent has to bury their child.

INTERIOR MINISTER AMBER RUDD

The opposition Labour party says the Conservative-led government has cut 21,000 police officers since 2010. But the government insists that the rise in robbery, knife and gun crime is due to improvements in police recording as well as a shift in drug dealing, towards more violent crack cocaine markets.

London's Metropolitan Police deployed an additional 300 officers over the weekend to areas most impacted by crime after a particularly violent week.

Ms Rudd told the BBC she had not seen the leaked document, but rejected any attempt to make the issue "a political tit-for-tat about police numbers". She added: "This is a complex crime and you cannot arrest your way out of this."

The new strategy includes laws targeting offensive weapons, including action to stop knives from being sent to residential addresses after they are bought on the Internet.

Ms Rudd will also call on social media companies to do more to rid the Web of violent gang content.

There are funds for new "community projects" for young people and a coordination centre targeting national drug dealing networks, the Interior Ministry said.

"As a government, we will never stand by while acid is thrown or knives wielded," Ms Rudd was due to say in a speech in London yesterday. "I am clear that we must do whatever it takes to tackle this so that no parent has to bury their child," she said.

Meanwhile, London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who has devolved powers over policing, announced that he would host a summit with political leaders today, as he faced pressure to act over the crime spike.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 10, 2018, with the headline 'Britain unveils plan to tackle violent crimes'. Print Edition | Subscribe