On the 12 May, I wrote to Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, about the tragedy of violent crime in Newham, and the inadequacy of police allocation in the area. You can see my full message below:
I write to you about the desperate and immediate need for more police resources in Newham.
The murder of David Gomoh last month has yet again traumatised a family and a whole community in Custom House and Canning Town, and its impact goes wider still. The circumstances, as you will know, are terrible. David was just 24 and was working in support of our NHS. The attack appears to have been both coordinated and completely unprovoked. Utterly tragically, David had lost his father to COVID-19 the very day before he was cruelly taken from his family and our community. I am seized with sympathy for the unimaginable pain that David’s mother and sister must be going through.
I am grateful for everything our excellent police staff have done to support David’s family, and are glad that some progress has been made with the investigation. However, I cannot say we are confident that our local police service has the resources they need to keep our constituents safe.
Newham has had the highest number of murders in London over the last year. Murders in Newham have been the second highest in London over the last 2 and 3 year periods as well. For the broader category of violence with injury, Newham has consistently been in the top 5 London Boroughs over the last 3 years. Knife crime locally is generally in excess of 10,000 incidents a year, whilst there are some other local authority areas that have as much as 25% fewer knife incidents but more police officers.
I believe it is extremely important to bear in mind that the violent crimes that occur in Newham are generally complex. They are frequently bound up with gangs and organised crime, and each incident is more likely to originate from a pattern of criminality and to lead to reprisals. This requires a more intensive police response to prevent escalating violence and to untangle difficult organised crime networks involving very widespread child criminal exploitation. I believe we have a level of safeguarding need circa a third higher than that in other geographic areas that are in receipt of higher police resources.
Newham contains many highly deprived areas. We have the second highest child poverty rate in the country, the highest homelessness in the country, very high population ‘churn’, and a large hidden population. We also have the second lowest average age profile in the country. I know you will appreciate that all these factors combined make Newham fertile ground for many of the most appalling violent crimes that have plagued our streets over the last few years.
Despite this, the North-East Command Unit has the second lowest number of officers of any BCU across London, and the lowest number of Police Constables. The number of officers per 1000 population is significantly lower than very similar BCUs including Central East, Central North, and Central South. The ad hoc additional officers we occasionally receive in the form of the Violent Crime Taskforce and Territorial Support Group do not support community engagement or local intelligence gathering. While these deployments are an important temporary measure, they do not add much lasting value.
Population, job, and visitor growth in our area are expected to continue to grow rapidly, particularly in and around Stratford. The longer that our level of resources is allowed to remain so disproportionate to our needs and population, the worse the situation will become. Further delay in increasing the number of officers serving our area is simply unacceptable.
I urge you to speed up your programme to increase police numbers, to prioritise areas with the highest needs for policing of violent and other very serious crimes, and to ensure that the Metropolitan Police service has the resources it needs as soon as possible.
Finally, I have been repeatedly assured on the floor of the House that I would have an opportunity to discuss the actions that are being taken to combat county lines. While I have had some contact with the NCA about this, a meeting has so far failed to materialise. The usual problems with crossed wires and diaries have caused delays, as well as the election last year. I would be grateful if you could intervene so that I have the opportunity to talk directly to those whose responsibility it is to combat this scourge as soon as possible.