Since the start of 2018, at least fifty-eight people have been fatally stabbed on London’s streets. With Sadiq Khan’s Mayoral seat up for election in 2020, tackling this deadly issue is at the forefront of a severe political debate. Technology has the ability to help, but the labour party is failing to act. The Tories now have their eyes on the seat, and one candidate is promising a US-style technological revolt.
Sadiq Khan has been unable to combat London’s knife crime crisis. In July 2016, shortly after the Mayor came to power, the monthly total for knife crime incidents was 1,030. By June 2018, this number had risen to 1,371. In the first four months of 2018, according to Metropolitan Police figures, there were 1,438 stabbings in London, and one particularly fatal period in August saw four knife deaths in just ninety-six hours.
Sadiq Khan places blame on central government, stating that funding cuts and reducing police numbers are resulting in a total lack of necessary resources.
With the Mayoral seat up for grabs in 2020, the hopeful challengers have started speaking out against Khan. One Tory candidate in particular, Shaun Bailey, seems to be building his campaign around the failure to reduce knife crime.
Bailey has accused Khan of demonstrating a “lack of leadership” by blaming cuts for his failure to fight crime. Writing in the Evening Standard, he said: “Before Khan gets the begging bowl out and complains about the lack of Government funding, he should first cut his own bureaucracy…Too much of the overall police budget is spent on backroom bureaucrats and not police officers.”
Bailey has pledged to increase the number of police officers on the capital’s streets by 1,000 if he is elected as Mayor in 2020, but his plan doesn’t stop there. He has also pledged a £7.5 million technological overhaul in order to implement “ultra-efficient” artificial intelligence like that used by the New York Police Department in their bid to fight back against gang crime.
The NYPD’s crime database, which they call a Domain Awareness System, stores “records from 9,000 CCTV cameras, 500 car number plate readers and callouts from citizens”. This information is then analysed by AI in order to highlight links between criminals and criminal incidents.
In New York, the Domain Awareness System has reduced crime “drastically” and reportedly saved the city £37 million a year. Bailey claims that a London equivalent would cost the city £7.5 million a year, but result in savings £32 million a year.
His critics say that the money required would drain that which is currently funding crime prevention methods – working with the community to stop crimes from happening in the first place. And while the use of technology in crime prevention should certainly be explored, one could argue that it is a no-win solution. It may help catch criminals, but it will be less effective in reducing the number of crimes that occur. The only way to do that is to spend time and resources on re-directing those young people whose paths seem to be heading towards gang crime.
A balance needs to be struck. Political shit-stirring is not the answer – we need a cross-party agreement which uses technology to its greatest effect but also engages the population in a positive, preventative manner.