Tue, Apr 10, 2018 - Page 7 News List

Britain unveils strategy against wave of killings

INCONVENIENT TRUTH?The Labour Party accused the Cabinet of responsibility following the publication of a report that pointed to a reduced police presence

AFP, LONDON

The UK government yesterday unveiled a new violent crime strategy following a surge in stabbings and shootings in London, but sought to brush off a leaked document suggesting that cuts to police numbers were a contributing factor.

British Home Secretary Amber Rudd promised to do “whatever it takes” to tackle a wave of violence that has pushed the capital’s murder rate — at more than 50 this year — higher than New York’s.

The strategy, backed by £40 million (US$56.4 million) of funding, aims to steer young people away from crime and tackle violent drug-dealing gangs.

The government has rejected criticism that the increase in crime is a result of years of cuts to police funding, despite a leaked document from the UK Home Office highlighting this as a cause.

The document, drawn up in February and published by the Guardian, said that resources dedicated to serious violence have been squeezed and this “may have encouraged offenders.”

It was “unlikely to be the factor that triggered the shift in serious violence, but may be an underlying driver that has allowed the rise to continue,” the document said.

“Not the main driver but has likely contributed,” it added in summary.

The UK Labour Party has said that the Conservative-led government has cut 21,000 police officers since 2010.

Ministers have said that the rise in robbery, knife and gun crime is due to improvements in police recording, as well as a shift in drug dealing toward more violent crack cocaine markets.

Rudd told BBC Radio 4’s Today program that she had not seen the leaked document, but rejected any attempt to make the issue “a political tit-for-tat about police numbers.”

“This is a complex crime and you cannot arrest your way out of this,” she said. “I think it is a mistake, and we do a disservice to the communities and the families who have seen these tragedies, by just pointing to police numbers.”

Labour Party Shadow Minister of State for Policing, Fire and Criminal Justice Louise Haigh said that Rudd’s admission that she had not seen the documents was shocking.

The new strategy includes laws targeting offensive weapons, including action to stop knives being sent to residential addresses after they are bought on the Internet.

Rudd is also to call on social media companies to do more to rid the Web of violent gang content.

There are funds for new “community projects” for young people and a coordination center targeting national drug dealing networks, the interior ministry said.

“As a government, we will never stand by while acid is thrown or knives wielded,” Rudd was to say in a speech in London. “I am clear that we must do whatever it takes to tackle this so that no parent has to bury their child.”

London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who has devolved powers over policing, said that he would today host a summit with political leaders as he faced pressure to act over the crime spike.

Additional reporting by The Guardian

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