Sadiq Khan yesterday announced a major policy shift to halt the wave of knife killings in London by adopting a new “public health” approach.
The mayor bowed to pressure from all sides of the political spectrum to set up a specialist Violence Reduction Unit to tackle gangs and help teenagers escape crime. It will use lessons learned from Glasgow which halved its own murder rate with the strategy.
Khan’s move comes after more than 100 murder investigations have been launched in London this year, including more than 60 fatal stabbings and 10 shootings, many involving teenagers.
Big questions still remained, however, over who would manage and lead the unit. City Hall announced an initial investment of £500,000 towards setting it up by bringing together specialists in health, policing and local government. City Hall said it had researched the successful approach taken in Glasgow under the leadership of Karyn McCluskey, dubbed Scotland’s Gangbuster. She combined tough policing to disrupt gangs with help for teenagers keen to escape lives of crime and prison.
Khan said: “We have listened and researched the public health approaches in cities like Glasgow, where their own long-term approach over more than a decade has delivered large reductions in violence. “City Hall has spent time properly learning the lessons from Glasgow and developing plans to scale their approach up to meet the different needs and challenges we face in London.”
The mayor highlighted the difference in size of the two cities. Glasgow has a population of 600,000 compared with 9mn in London across myriad districts.
Former Met superintendent Leroy Logan, who criticised the mayor for lacking a “coherent strategy” to tackle violence this month, said: “The mayor has come late to this, but I welcome the announcement.” Lord Paddick, the former Metropolitan Police deputy assistant commissioner and Liberal Democrat peer, said: “Sadiq has realised that the next mayoral campaign is beginning and his vulnerability around violence and child deaths. But the lesson from Scotland is that there are no quick fixes. A lot of this is about children who suffered trauma in their early years who need help.”
Labour MP Sarah Jones, founder of the all-party parliamentary group on knife crime, said: “I have been campaigning for a violence reduction unit for over a year. We know that policing alone won’t stop the violence. I applaud the mayor for this bold move.”
Gareth Bacon, the Tory opposition leader on the London Assembly, said: “As usual with this mayor the devil will be in the detail. He needs to lead this energetically with drive and conviction, and he will be judged on the results.” City Hall stressed that it already had a smaller-scale public health style policy, but the new unit would be at the heart of a long-term strategy.
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