Britain’s most senior police officer has clashed with the Prime Minister over whether there is a link between police cuts and increased knife crime.
Speaking on LBC, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick said there is “obviously” some link between officer numbers and street violence.
Speaking in the wake of a slew of fatal knife attacks on teenagers in the capital and elsewhere, Ms Dick said: “If you went back in history, you would see examples of when police officer numbers have gone down and crime has not necessarily risen at the same rate and in the same way.
“But I think that what we all agree on is that, in the last few years, police officer numbers have gone down a lot, there’s been a lot of other cuts in public services, there has been more demand for policing and therefore there must be something, and I have consistently said that.
“I agree that there is some link between violent crime on the streets obviously and police numbers, of course there is and everybody would see that.”
John Apter, chairman of the Police Federation, said the Prime Minister was “delusional”, while former Met Commissioner Lord Hogan-Howe called for 20,000 officers to be recruited and demanded that ministers “get a grip on the crisis”.
Chuka Umunna, of The Independent Group, also hit back, saying on Twitter: “It is absurd for the Prime Minister to suggest that having more police will not help reduce the violence on the streets.
“She insults people’s intelligence with this nonsense.”
Last year, the launch of the Government’s serious violence strategy was overshadowed when it emerged the 114-page report made no reference at all to workforce size.
Hours before it was published, The Guardian reported that internal Home Office research suggested that falls in police numbers had “likely contributed” to a rise in serious violent crime.
On Tuesday, London Mayor Sadiq Khan accused the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary of crying “crocodile tears” over rates of knife crime.
He told Sky News: “We need much more resources from the Government to invest in preventative services and policing.
“We have fewer police in London now in 2019 than at any time since 2003 – our population has grown by a million-and-a-half since 2003.
“Also, when it comes to youth services, over the last eight years dozens and dozens of youth centres have closed down, hundreds of youth workers have lost their jobs, thousands of young people who used to have youth centres to go to (now) haven’t.”
Ms Dick also hit out again at middle-class recreational drug users, agreeing that they have “blood on their hands”.
She was asked by LBC host Nick Ferrari: “Is it fair to say, Commissioner, that some of these middle-class dinner parties that send out for cocaine on the weekend or whatever it might be, they’ve actually got blood on their hands of some of the people who are dying on the streets?”
Ms Dick replied: “I think anybody who is not seriously mentally ill, seriously addicted, who is seeking ‘recreational’ drugs, particularly class A drugs, yes, I think that is a good way to put it, I do.”
The drugs trade is one of the key drivers behind street violence, particularly county lines networks that target children and teenagers to work as couriers.
Several MPs, including a former Home Office minister, have called for the Government to convene a meeting of the Cobra emergency committee to respond to the “national crisis”.
Home Secretary Sajid Javid is to meet police chiefs on Wednesday to discuss the bloodshed.