Sadiq Khan said on Monday there is a direct link between government austerity measures and serious youth violence in London as pressure grows on the capital’s mayor to take action following a spate of highly publicised stabbings.
Mr Khan, who is seeking re-election next year, said research conducted for his office had shown that areas of the city with high levels of violent offending were also the most deprived.
London has experienced a 71 per cent rise in violent incidents since 2012 with a record number of killings in 2018.
Serious youth violence and the homicide rate in the capital is marginally down in 2019, however, a number of stabbings – including the murder of a heavily pregnant woman this month –has brought the issue into focus.
The research, conducted by London’s Violence Reduction Unit and using figures from police and ambulance services, showed three-quarters of the boroughs in London with the highest levels of violent offending were among the 10 most deprived.
Concerns have been raised that youth violence will rise further when schools break up for the summer holidays next week.
In Tower Hamlets, often considered to be London’s poorest borough, 33 per cent of dependent children live in relative poverty, compared with an average of 19 per cent in the capital.
Elsewhere in the city, the affluent borough of Richmond upon Thames has 9 per cent of children living in relative poverty and the lowest level of youth violence in the capital.
Speaking at a youth club, close to where someone was stabbed less than 24 hours previously, Mr Khan said: “The stark new analysis from City Hall truly lays bare the full extent of the relationship between serious youth violence and a whole range of socioeconomic factors. There are still some who say that to acknowledge this link between poverty, deprivation and crime is somehow to excuse criminality and to let the criminals off the hook. I say this is dangerous rubbish.”
He added: “Those who commit crimes must pay for their actions. But we have to face the reality that for some young people growing up today, violence has become normalised. And with hope at rock bottom, inequality higher than ever and an absence of positive opportunities, turning to crime and gangs has become an all too easy route to satisfy the lure of gaining respect and money, however misguided this is.”
The Labour mayor said austerity measures enacted by successive Conservative-led governments since 2010 had made offending rates soar.
“The sad reality is the violence we’re seeing on our streets today is an appalling side-effect of increasing inequality and alienation caused by years of government austerity and neglect,” he said.
“The lesson we must all learn is that you can’t cut police officers, public services, preventative measures and ignore the most vulnerable people in our country at the same time as keeping crime low. These things are fundamentally incompatible.”
Mr Khan has called for more government funding to address the issue, while announcing £360,000 worth of funding for 43 projects working with 3,500 young people at risk of becoming involved in crime over the summer holidays.
London’s mayor, who was elected in 2016, has been criticised for rising crime levels on his watch by Conservative politicians as well as the US President Donald Trump.
Outgoing prime minister Theresa May, who has previously said there is no link between police cuts and rising violence, pledged an extra £100 million for police in some of the worst-hit areas of the country.
Both candidates for Mrs May’s job, Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt, have promised to increase police numbers if they become prime minister.