British police told to shift resources into tackling rise in knife crime
Comments by chancellor Philip Hammond rejected as ‘insult’ by police representatives
Yousef Makki (17), who was fatally stabbed in Altrincham, near Manchester, on March 2nd, Jodie Chesney (17), who was fatally stabbed in a park in Romford, east London on March 1st. Photographs: Police handouts/AFP/Getty Images
Chancellor Philip Hammond’s demand that police shift existing resources into tackling knife crime rather than expect more funding has been branded “an insult”, as the death toll from stabbings in the Britain continued to rise.
Mr Hammond said forces should move officers away from “lower priority” crime and on to knife violence. His comments came on the same day a teenager died in West Kensington, becoming the 17th person killed by a knife in London alone in 2019.
Mr Hammond’s comments, which also included a suggestion that public services would get more cash if MPs voted for prime minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal, were severely criticised by the Police Federation of England and Wales, the staff association for police constables, sergeants and inspectors.
The row erupted as Peter Chesney, father of 17-year-old Jodie Chesney who was knifed in the back in a seemingly motiveless attack in Harold Hill, east London, on Friday, made an emotional appeal for someone “to do the right thing” and help catch her killer.
In a separate development, police announced the death of a 37-year-old man who had been injured in a stabbing in Soho on Sunday. And David Martinez was named as the 26-year-old Spanish man who died after a stabbing in Leyton, east London, on Wednesday.
Responding to Mr Hammond’s comments, the police federation’s national chairman John Apter said: “Children are dying on our streets and he has the audacity to suggest that the police need to prioritise. Let me assure him – this is a priority.
“Across England and Wales, my members are the ones working flat out to prevent more young people being killed.
“They are often the ones on their knees in the street trying desperately to save the lives of these young victims, they are the ones who have to deliver the terrible news to families that their loved one will never be coming home again.
“And they are doing it with almost 22,000 fewer colleagues than when the Conservative Government came to power.”
Mr Hammond told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the spike in knife crime needed to be tackled through “a surging of resources from other areas of policing activity”.
“That’s what you do in any organisation when you get a specific problem occurring in one area of the operation – you move resources to deal with that,” he said. “And what the public will want to know is that this Friday night and this Saturday night there are going to be more police officers focused on dealing with knife crime, and that means necessarily fewer police officers that will be dealing with other lower priority areas of activity.”
On Wednesday, British home secretary Sajid Javid said after an emergency meeting with chief constables that resources were “very important” and the government should listen to police.
Mr Hammond insisted that police budgets were rising, and said knife crime was “an immediate problem, you cannot solve it by recruiting and training more officers – that takes time”. He said the “right Brexit deal” would allow for money set aside for no-deal to be “put into public services over the next three years”.
The number of police officers across the 43 forces in England and Wales has fallen by more than 20,000 since 2009 but Mrs May has said there is no correlation between the decline and “certain crimes”.
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell accused Mr Hammond of being “tin-eared” and “acting like a management consultant”.
London mayor Sadiq Khan and seven police and crime commissioners have written a letter to Mrs May, warning that a “broken” school exclusion system is exacerbating the surge. “It cannot be right that so many of those who have committed offences have been excluded from school or were outside of mainstream education,” it said. – PA