Chief constable says leading fight against violent crime ‘a job for Number 10’

One of the country’s most senior police officers has challenged the Prime Minister to take action to stop the surge in violent crime.

Chairwoman of the National Police Chiefs’ Council  Sara Thornton told MPs that there needs to be “a much more concerted response from Government” to tackle the bloodshed, and that this would be “a job for Number 10”.

Asked why the Government’s serious violence strategy, published last year, was apparently not working, she said: “We feel that somebody at the very top of government needs to be driving the contributions to that strategy.

“We think there needs to be something that is really concentrating the minds.

London crime
Police at a crime scene (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

“It needn’t be Cobra, Cobra’s just a room, but getting the most senior people round the table and owning the problem and saying ‘what can we do jointly to solve the problem?’”

She told members of the Home Affairs Select Committee that the issue of violent crime goes beyond policing, and that services providing prevention and diversion from crime are “just not there in the way they were five or 10 years ago”.

The senior officer pointed to factors such as more children being excluded from school, put in care or being made homeless and therefore being vulnerable to being recruited by gangs; as well as the role of social media fuelling tit-for-tat violence.

She said: “This isn’t a problem for the Home Office or the Home Secretary.

“We have got to ask ourselves why a child takes a knife to harm another child and I think that’s a question for much more than just the police service or indeed the Home Office.”

The chief constable added that it would be “a job for Number 10” to bring all the right people together to tackle the issues.

She told the committee: “When we have so many young people dying on our streets we need a much more concerted response from government.”

Police forces have asked the Home Office for a funding boost to pay for officers’ overtime as they surge teams into crime hotspots.

A projected funding rise of £970 million for 2019/20, half of which will be paid for by council taxpayers, is “not enough”, Ms Thornton said.

In London the Metropolitan Police has received funding for a dedicated violent crime taskforce, and the number of offences appears to be levelling off.

Analysis of official figures by the Guardian newspaper has shown that knife crime is rising more steeply outside London, with an average increase of 45.7% in 34 counties in England and Wales since 2010, compared to 11% in the capital.