- Past two months of bloodshed in London have overtaken New York’s murder rate
- Scotland Yard officers are now battling a 38 per cent surge in killings since 2014
- Fifteen people were killed in London in February, compared to 14 in New York
- And worryingly, trend looks set to continue, with 22 killings in London in March
The streets of London are now more deadly than New York, with the capital recording a higher murder rate for the first time in modern history in February.
The past two months of bloodshed in London have overtaken New York’s murder rate, official police figures show, as Scotland Yard battles a 38 per cent surge in killings since 2014.
Fifteen people were killed in London in February, compared to 14 in New York.
And the trend looks set to continue, with 22 killings in London in March – one more than the city on the other side of the Atlantic, where urban violence has long been prevalent.
The murder epidemic continued on Sunday when a man in his twenties was fatally stabbed after leaving a bar in Wandsworth, marking the 12th person to be murdered in London in 19 days.
A man has died after being stabbed to death on Sunday morning in Wandsworth. The unnamed victim in his twenties had left a bar and was found with the fatal wound on Ellerton Road at the junction with Burntwood Lane (pictured)
Formal identification awaits and a post-mortem examination will take place in due course, but the victim’s next-of-kin have been informed
Police have launched the latest murder investigation in the death of the unnamed young man who was stabbed to death on Easter Sunday.
He suffered a fatal stab wound at around 1:10am on Sunday, after leaving a bar in Wandsworth, south west London.
Met Police attended the scene along with the London Ambulance Service. Despite the best efforts of officers and paramedics, the man was pronounced dead at the scene just before 2am.
Formal identification awaits and a post-mortem examination will take place in due course, but the victim’s next-of-kin have been informed.
A 21-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of murder and is currently in custody at a west London police station.
Seyed Khan, 49, who was found dead in London at the beginning of the month – on February 1
Youth worker Kwabena Nelson (left), 22, who was stabbed to death in Tottenham and Hasan Ozcan who was fatally knifed – both on February 3
The figures emerged as Scotland Yard was called to yet another stabbing in the early hours of yesterday.
Devoy Stapleton, 20, was knifed to death on his way home from a night out at 1am in Wandsworth. It is the 31st fatal stabbing in London this year.
The surge in killings comes as rates of rape, robbery, and violent offences in London have already eclipsed those in New York.
A tale of two violent cities
London and New York both have a population of about 8 million and an annual police budget of around £3 billion.
New York – which has 40,000 police officers to London’s 32,000 – was renowned for violence with more than 2,000 killings a year in the early 1990s, but the NYPD introduced a zero tolerance approach to low-level crime and flooded problem areas with patrols.
The force also put a huge amount of emphasis on community policing.
The murder rate plummeted from 2,245 in 1990 to a record low last year of 286
London also has almost three times the number of reported rapes, but until February this year the murder rate in New York remained higher.
The total number of London murders, even excluding victims of terrorism, has risen by 38 per cent since 2014. In contrast, the number of murders in New York have fallen by 87 per cent since its 1990s peak.
Scotland Yard Commissioner Cressida Dick says social media sites could be to blame, claiming that disputes on online messaging boards and video sites were escalating to murder ‘within minutes’.
‘There’s definitely something about the impact of social media in terms of people being able to go from slightly angry with each other to “fight” very quickly,’ she said.
She also wants to increase the use of stop and search, which fell by up to two thirds when Theresa May was Home Secretary.
Italian teenager Sabri Chibani, 19, was stabbed to death in south London on February 11, just weeks after moving to the capital to find work
Murder victim Bulent Kabala (left) was shot dead in targeted hit in Barnet on February 12, while Lewis Blackman (right), 19, was stabbed to death after a party in Kensington, west London, on February 18
Rotimi Oshibanjo, 26, pictured left, was killed on February 19 after he was knifed, and Adbikarim Hassan, 17, pictured right, was stabbed to death a day later on February 20
Sadiq Mohamed, 20, pictured here, was stabbed to death on February 20 in a spate of deadly crimes in the capital
Jozef Boci, 30, was assaulted on February 23, making him the final murder victim of the month
Scotland Yard (32,000 officers) and the New York City Police Department (40,000) both have budgets of £3 billion a year.
But the NYPD has introduced a zero tolerance approach to low-level crime and has flooded problem areas with patrols.
Critics say Scotland Yard has done the exact opposite in the face of budget cuts, as it has ‘screened out’ a number of low-level offences and moved officers from neighbourhood policing to pursue historic child abuse inquiries, terrorism and other high-profile inquiries.
David Green, of the think-tank Civitas, said: ‘There is now a higher risk of being a victim of violent crime in London than New York, which is pretty staggering.
‘There is no way in which the police can be expected to deal with a bigger population in London and a lot of gang activity if you keep cutting budgets and reducing officer numbers.
‘If you look at cities like New York and Boston, they have poured a lot of resources into diverting people from gang activity and putting more officers on the street.
‘We have reduced visible policing – it’s the exact opposite.’
A spokesman for London Mayor Sadiq Khan said: ‘Our city remains one of the safest in the world thanks to the hard work and dedication of our police officers, but Sadiq wants it to be even safer and is working hard to bring an end to this violent scourge.’
A Met Police spokesman said: ‘One murder is one too many, and we are working hard with our partners to understand the increase and what we can all do to prevent these tragedies from happening in the first place.
Dreadful milestone shames those who protect us, commentary
Tom Wolfe’s best-selling novel of the 1980s, Bonfire of the Vanities, painted a chilling picture of New York as a crime-ridden metropolis where death stalked the sidewalk and murderous, random violence was a way of life.
Back then the Big Apple was known as the ‘Rotten Apple’ and its reputation haunted it for decades. London, by comparison, was a haven.
No longer. For the first time since crime records began, the murder rate in London has overtaken that of New York.
This is due in part to New York becoming a lot safer, following a zero-tolerance approach instituted by then-mayor Rudy Giuliani, and the famous ‘broken windows’ policy.
No misdemeanor was deemed too minor and police were present 24/7 in problem areas.
As a direct result, murders there have fallen by 87 percent since the 1980s. In 1990, 2,245 people were killed; last year the figure was 286.
Of course, there are many cities in the US which have not succeeded in cutting the homicide rate, and overall Britain remains a much safer country than America.
Nevertheless, the spate of murders in London in recent weeks is a shameful milestone – and we need an urgent debate about the contributory factors.
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick said interactions between individuals and gang members on social media were helping to inflame minor disagreements and grudges until, all too often, they ended in stabbings or shootings.
I am sure she is right.
However, there is another major factor behind the surge in deaths which is staring us in the face.
Between 2010 and 2014, knife crime was going down. In that time, reported offences involving a knife or sharp instrument across England and Wales fell from 32,900 to 26,000.
Then, in April 2014, Theresa May, then Home Secretary, made a speech in which she ordered police to observe new rules on stop and search.
In April 2014, Theresa May, then Home Secretary, made a speech in which she ordered police to observe new rules on stop and search (file image)
She had been moved, she said, by figures which showed people from a black or other ethnic minority background were seven times more likely to be stopped and searched and she ordered police to reduce the number of stop and searches which did not result in an arrest.
In future, she said, an officer would use stop and search powers only if he or she believed a crime ‘will’ take place rather than when they believed it ‘may’ take place.
The new rules had a dramatic effect. In 2013/14, there were 904,038 stop and searches. In 2016/17, that number fell to 303,845.
But, as stop and searches were curtailed, a worrying – if largely predictable – thing happened.
From 2014, the rate of knife crime began to rise again for the first time since 2010. By 2017, the number of knife offences across the UK had risen to 34,700.
There was, of course, some truth in what Theresa May said.
The black community did undoubtedly feel they were being singled out – guilty of ‘walking while black’.
For law-abiding individuals who felt they were being targeted, it was an upsetting, humiliating and unsettling experience.
And when people are treated unjustly, it is counter-productive in the fight against crime.
Officers will always find it difficult to win the co-operation of a community that feels under siege.
However, there is also evidence to suggest Mrs May could have been exaggerating the problem.
Last week, Alasdair Palmer, her speechwriter at the Home Office, revealed that officials had commissioned – but then ‘forgotten about’ – a study from Wolverhampton University which found that while it was true a disproportionate number of black people were being stopped and searched, it wasn’t true to say they were being targeted.
There were simply more black people out on the streets in areas where knife crime was a problem.
None of this changes the simple fact that if we are going to stop young men killing each other, we have to take knives off the street.
The best solution is to find a way of searching for knives which is not hostile and which does not leave people feeling they have been singled out.
Miss Dick has spoken previously of the benefits of police body cameras.
For the black community, the recording of interactions serves as reassurance that officers will not abuse their powers.
For police, it provides a ready source of evidence when their integrity is called into question.
A more radical solution would be to make searches a routine procedure.
No-one feels they have been singled out by being made to walk through an airport scanner, for example, because everyone has to do it.
When my son was in Beijing last year he sent me a video of himself heading down into the city metro system where everyone had to walk through a scanner.
Perhaps something similar could work here.
Whatever the police do now, it is clear that scaling back stop and search has been a dreadful mistake. They need to make getting knives off the streets a priority – and that means, one way or another, increasing the number of people being searched.
More police on the streets might help, too. It worked in New York.
In Britain, the number of police officers has tumbled from 143,734 in 2010 to 123,142 now.
New York doesn’t have a hugely greater number of police officers than London – 40,000 against London’s 32,000 (the cities are a similar size), but when I visited New York the police were certainly a more visual presence on the streets.
It is an approach we would do well to adopt in London.