I joined an emergency response team in on Southwark yesterday. It was a positive experience and it was good to pass on people's gratitude for their response to the London Bridge terror attack in June. The extreme end of police work is all taken in their stride, as are the daily offences they witness.
At the station we discussed the proposed borough merger, the rise in knife crime (including the recent SE17 weapons haul pictured), and gangs encroaching in Southwark as well as moped crime - a significant feature of yesterday's ride-along.
Since 2010, Southwark has lost over 200 police officers and PCSOs due to Government cuts. In London, we have seen a rise in a range of crimes, including violent crime, but there is a shortage of 700 detectives in the Met. Our police are simply under-resourced and over-stretched with the inevitable knock-on effect to public safety.
I joined Dan and Regan in their car and the first call was to a group of young men attempting to steal a moped. They didn't manage to take it thankfully but mopeds are a massive problem in London and were a regular issue on the walkie talkies as well as in my inbox. Mopeds are too easy to steal, with Vespas being particularly pathetically protected apparently. Manufacturers must do more to make them harder to pinch. Once taken, they are used to mug people of phones primarily. But the police are also hampered by rules preventing chasing those who steal them. The safety of the criminal is sadly put before tackling crime for the wider community. This must change.
I have already called on the Government to give our police the resources and powers to tackle all crime. This includes thieves stealing mopeds. Nor can the police keep picking up the pieces of other failing services. Another feature of the shift, and reports to me from local officers, is the number of incidents involving people with mental health problems. Yesterday, the only arrest I witnessed included a man with a mental health condition. His care package simply wasn't working, resulting in him causing problems for others in an unvirtuous circle.
I will be raising the issues seen yesterday when I meet the Deputy Mayor for policing, Sophie Linden and will ask how the Mayor's commitment to delivering more Dedicated Ward Officers will be rolled out to improve police visibility. I will continue to work with the Borough Commander, safer neighbourhood boards and others to help tackle the community safety challenges we all face.
I am grateful to all officers I met yesterday, and especially Dan and Regan for putting up with my questions in their car.