Crime is an important issue in Croydon’s council and Mayoral elections. Or at least it should be. ANDREW FISHER polices the claims of the competing camps, and adds some essential context
Policing matters. The amount of violent crime is higher now than in 2010. And there are fewer police officers now than there were in 2010.
Between 2015 and 2020, London’s crime rate increased by 17.5per cent. Although police numbers are now rising, Conservative government cuts resulted in 23,000 fewer officers in that time, while 600 police stations were closed, 63 of those in London while Boris Johnson was the city’s Mayor.
Croydon illustrates this well: since 2010 the town centre police team has been reduced from about 20 officers to just four, who with two PCSOs have to cover all of Fairfield and Broad Green wards. This is according to Chief Superintendent Dave Stringer, the police area commander.
Some moves have been made recently to address this. Last year, as reported by Inside Croydon, a new Met “town centre team” of two police sergeants and 21 constables started in Croydon. These new officers are part-funded by revenue generated from the Mayor of London’s precept.
Knife crime remains a serious issue in Croydon, with the murder of 15-year-old Zaian Aimable-Lina marking the end of a wretched year of teenagers being killed across London. A spate of stabbings in New Addington in the past fortnight has highlighted just how much of an issue this remains.
According to the Crimestoppers charity, hospital admissions for knife attacks on under-16s have risen 93per cent since 2012.
This hasn’t just coincided with a fall in police numbers, but with a massive reduction in funding for youth services, the closures of youth centres and a significant rise in child poverty. The latter point has been highlighted by Labour’s Croydon Mayoral candidate, Val Shawcross, who has spoken of “the damage done by Tory cuts to police and youth services”.
Debate in the election campaign has focused on the number of officers assigned to New Addington, with Croydon South’s Tory MP Chris Philp tweeting that, “Croydon Labour just cut police the council was funding in New Addington – as a result of the council’s bankruptcy”.
This, however, is not quite right.
In the main, police are funded nationally. The massive cuts over the last decade depleted police presence across Croydon, London and the whole country. In 2019, Croydon Council signed a three-year fixed-term contract to pay for an additional two police officers in New Addington. That contract ended , as scheduled, on 31 March 2022.
So the police funding did not end because of the council’s bankruptcy – which in any case was in part the fault of central government funding cuts to local councils.
And the council says that the officers are remaining in post, as police funding has recovered cover their cost – which fits with the recent increase in police numbers.
So no police officers are being cut from New Addington.
It makes Conservative mayoral candidate Jason Perry’s pledge – he even went to the trouble of making a video of himself and had it posted on Twitter – to restore funding for the officers rather redundant.
New Addington Labour also pointed out that it was the Conservatives who closed the police station in the ward – at a time when there was a Conservative-run council in Croydon, a Conservative government in Westminster and when the Mayor of London was Boris Johnson.
Croydon’s town centre has recently benefited from “night rangers”, funded by the Croydon Business Improvement District, to assist the police as the night- time economy re-opened.
Extra measures are also being put in place by Croydon’s businesses, as part of Mayor Sadiq Khan’s Women’s Night Safety Charter.
However, as uncovered by Inside Croydon earlier this week, the council is cutting 20 neighbourhood support officers and replacing them with privatised security, whose primary purpose seems to be to issue fines.
But the issues with policing are not just about the number of officers.
Across London, public trust in the Metropolitan Police has been rocked by scandals including the murder of Sarah Everard and the policing of a vigil to mark her passing, and revelations exposing a misogynistic and racist culture from the Charing Cross unit to the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command which defends Parliament.
The Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick was effectively dismissed by the Mayor of London for failing to tackle these issues and the resulting loss of public confidence. Her position had been the subject of much debate with Conservative Home Secretary Priti Patel and Labour leader Keir Starmer both backing her until recently, while Baroness Doreen Lawrence and Labour MPs like Harriet Harman and Dawn Butler had been calling for her to go.
The Met is far from reflecting London’s communities. Take a look at the official photograph issued by Scotland Yard’s press team at the launch of Croydon’s new town centre team back in October (at the top of this page). It looks a long way from being representative of Croydon’s communities.
Overall, today, more than 80per cent of the Met’s officers are ethnically white, compared to just 58per cent of all Londoners.
Meanwhile, just 3.5per cent of Met officers are black, compared to around 14per cent of Londoners.
This is not just a statistical anomaly – it is reflective of wider cultural problems in the Met, hindering its recruitment and feeding distrust in the force. An investigation last month by OpenDemocracy found that 90per cent of officers who have been disciplined for racism still kept their jobs.
Tackling crime in Croydon won’t be achieved by just increasing police numbers, or even tackling the institutional problems in the Met Police.
Social services, youth workers and funding for young people’s activities are all key to preventing crime in the first place.
While police numbers are being replenished, there is no sign of central government funding being restored to council services or council-funded voluntary sector organisations that work with young people.
As the cost of living crisis gets worse, and more children grow up with fewer opportunities, don’t expect crime rates to come down.
- South Norwood resident Andrew Fisher, pictured right, has worked as a trades union official, researcher and writer, and from 2015 to 2019 as Labour’s Director of Policy under Jeremy Corbyn. He is the chair of the Croydon Central Constituency Labour Party. Fisher is also the author of The Failed Experiment – and how to build an economy that works, and in a personal capacity now writes regular columns for InsideCroydon.com
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