While the Home Office ramps up the demands on the police service in the capital and maintains its pretence that there are “more police officers in England and Wales than ever before”, official figures show that there are 64% fewer safer neighbourhood police officers in London than in 2015.
Theresa May, when Home Secretary, was notorious for axing 20,000 police across England and Wales in that first flush of the 2010 coalition government enthusiasm for austerity measures.
Recent recruitment drives have only redressed that balance – often with PCSOs, the part-timer “Hobby Bobbies”, stepping up into full-time roles and leaving behind them other, unfilled vacancies.
Now figures obtained from the House of Commons Library show that in 2015 the Metropolitan Police employed 6,459 safer neighbourhood officers. In 2022, there were 2,310.
As a consequence, the Met Police are “reacting to crime, not preventing it”, according to a London MP.
The average decline in safer neighbourhood officer across England and Wales in that same period has been 27%.
Sarah Olney, the LibDem MP for Richmond Park, commissioned the research, which has found the drop in officer numbers coinciding with the closure of more than 100 police stations in London, most of which were sold off when Tory Boris Johnson was the Mayor.
“The Met’s frontline teams have been decimated over the past eight years,” Olney said in a BBC interview.
“We’ve seen fewer and fewer police walking our streets, instead blue lights come screaming in whenever there’s an incident. They’re reacting to crime, not preventing it.
“Burglaries, muggings and car thefts aren’t stopped by response units.
“It’s the fear that an officer could be round the corner at any moment that deters crime.”
Only five other forces out of 42 across England and Wales have seen a greater fall in neighbourhood officers than in the Met.
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