Home secretary Sajid Javid on Wednesday admitted that increasing police funding was an “important” factor in tackling knife crime, after talks with chief constables about how to deal with a spate of teenage stabbings across the UK.
However, as Mr Javid backed a call by police for more resources, prime minister Theresa May was facing increasing criticism over her claim on Monday that there was no link between cuts to police funding and rising levels of violent crime.
Mrs May announced a Downing Street summit on knife crime involving the police, community leaders and victims.
Public concern about knife crime has been growing for months, and Mr Javid’s meeting with chief constables followed the fatal stabbings of two 17-year-olds — one in London and another in Greater Manchester — over the past week.
Police confirmed a further fatality on Wednesday evening after a man in his mid-20s was found stabbed to death in east London.
The home secretary was not able to offer any immediate new funding at the meeting, but officers were asked to prepare a bid for more resources to combat what one police leader called a state of “national emergency”.
Speaking after the talks, Mr Javid said: “I think police resources are very important to deal with this. We’ve got to do everything we can . . . I’m absolutely committed to working with the police in doing this.”
He added it was important for ministers to give police “more confidence” over the use of stop-and-search powers.
This view has already led to a dispute in cabinet with Mrs May, who scaled back the use of stop-and-search while home secretary in response to fears that ethnic minorities were being unfairly targeted.
Responding to Labour accusations at prime minister’s questions in the House of Commons that she was trying to keep communities safe “on the cheap”, Mrs May was adamant she was already putting more resources into police forces.
“It is a fact that more money is being put into the police this year, that more money is being put into the police next year,” she said, adding that officers tackling knife crime were being given “the support they need to do their job”.
In December the Home Office proposed that police funding should increase by £970m in 2019-20, but most of this would come through council tax rises.
The funding increase follows a 15 per cent decline in officer numbers since 2010, after budget cuts of about 20 per cent.
Sara Thornton, head of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, accused the government of failing to show leadership on reducing knife crime, and called for a meeting of the government’s emergency response committee as well as an immediate injection of funding.
“Look at the facts. There are fewer police officers doing less policing and there’s more crime,” she told the BBC.
“We know that we are taking longer to get to emergencies, we are arresting fewer people, we are charging fewer people, so I think there is a link and we need to really look at what we can do in terms of policing to stop the violence and the killings now.”
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