To the coalition’s list of woes, we can now add rising crime. In London, burglaries, robberies and muggings have all increased for the first time in years, even before the full force of the government’s police cuts are felt. Figures from the Met show that burglaries in London rose by 18.5 per cent from 4,410 in May last year to 5,228 this May, robberies by 15 per cent from 3,257 to 3,749; and thefts of and from vehicles by 6 per cent to 9,299. It’s all fertile PMQs material for Ed Miliband.
Significantly, as today’s Times reports (£), police chiefs outside London believe this is the start of the long-anticipated recession crime wave. One chief constable tells the paper: “We are just about holding the line, but there are clear signs that burglary and robbery are on the turn.”
Labour, ever eager to challenge the Tories’ reputation as the party of law and order, has been quick to respond. Yvette Cooper said: “Cutting police budgets by 20 per cent means 12,000 police officers are being lost including 1,800 in the Met alone. Crime fell by 40 per cent in the last twelve years, but that progress was hard won and it is now being put at risk.” So far, David Cameron and Theresa May have insisted that their cuts will have no effect on the delivery of policing but a rise in crime would instantly discredit this claim.
Ministers, one expects, will argue that rising crime is inevitable in these austere times. But it’s not an argument that they ever accepted from Labour when in opposition. A surge in crime, as David Cameron will be all too aware, could yet provide a focus for public anger.