£7 billion cost of London’s violent crime surge amid ‘cycle of fear’

Police and forensic officers at a crime scene (Getty Images)
Police and forensic officers at a crime scene (Getty Images)

The financial cost of London’s violent crime epidemic has spiralled to a staggering £7 billion a year, a new report claims.

One in four people said they had been attacked or threatened with violence in the past five years while living in the capital, it concludes.

The Centre for Social Justice think tank lays bare “a cycle of fear” that continues to represent “significant” harm to society.

London mayor Sadiq Khan, seeking a historic third term on May 2, is accused of letting crime soar “out of control” by Tory challenger Susan Hall. Mr Khan defended his record and blames austerity.

But Monday’s figures are more than double the £3 billion his own Violence Reduction Unit put on the serious consequences of such offending in 2019.

The CSJ, set up by former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith, adds the financial impact of 110 homicides recorded in 2023 is £271 million, including emergency service response, police investigations, criminal justice and lost economic output caused by a death.

Using the same analysis, 160,000 stabbings, assaults and violent crimes cost £2 billion.

Nearly 140,000 robberies led to losses of another £2 billion, 15,000 rapes £792 million, 136,000 sexual offences £1.1 billion, and other violence £664 million, the CSJ estimates from police, Office for National Statistics and Home Office data.

Worryingly, the report finds around a tenth of Londoners feel they are at risk of knife and gun-wielding gangs or know someone who is.

Stormzy at a vigil for 15-year-old Elianne Andam in Croydon (PA)
Stormzy at a vigil for 15-year-old Elianne Andam in Croydon (PA)

A similar number are aware of a friend or relative who has a firearm or previously possessed one.

As a result, the polling commissioned by the CSJ and conducted by Survation, said half of Londoners want to see police on the beat in their communities more often.

Support for stop and search to take deadly weapons off the streets has actually increased among those aged 18 to 24, compared to London as a whole.

But a reduction in its use by officers is blamed on “clear political messaging from lobby groups and the Mayor of London”, the CSJ claim.

Harry Pitman, 16 - stabbed to death with a hunting knife while waiting to watch New Year’s Eve fireworks in Primrose Hill - was the 21st teenager to be killed in 2023.

The toll marked a 50 per cent rise on the 14 homicides in 2022 but is short of 2021, the worst year on record when 30 youngsters lost their lives.

In September, the fatal stabbing of Elianne Andam, 15, shocked the community in Croydon when she was attacked on her way to school.

Four in ten crimes are recorded in the capital’s most income-deprived areas, compared to its richest boroughs, says the CSJ’s Serious Violence in London report.

It makes five recommendations, including banning social media companies from allowing online searches of knife and firearm sales - like techniques used in the fight against terrorism.

Stop and search should be the bedrock of crime prevention because the “public remains largely supportive of it” and the Met must publish stats on stops to improve trust and confidence.

Expanding the Volunteer Police Cadet programme ought to be considered, the CSJ argues.

Officers need to be more involved in youth sport and schools as well as having transparent relationships with communities, it says.

Harry Pitman was fatally stabbed in Primrose Hill Park in north London on New Year’s Eve (Family handout/Metropolitan Police/PA) (PA Media)
Harry Pitman was fatally stabbed in Primrose Hill Park in north London on New Year’s Eve (Family handout/Metropolitan Police/PA) (PA Media)

Nikita Malik, the CSJ’s head of work and opportunity, said: “With nearly one in four Londoners attacked or threatened with violence in the last five years, it’s hardly surprising they are demanding more from the police.

“They want them to be more visible and more proactive: conducting stop and search, involved in schools and sports clubs, and part of London’s communities.”

Metropolitan Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner Ade Adelekan, said officers taking 4,000 dangerous weapons off London’s streets every year undoubtable saves lives.

He said: “A key part of our plan to reform the Met is to work closely with our communities, ensuring we police with their consent.

“Stop and search has always been a contentious issue. When used well it saves lives and is important in keeping Londoners safe, helping us identify criminality and take dangerous weapons like knives and firearms off our streets.

“I know some Londoners have a poor experience of stop and search and that has damaged the trust, confidence and co-operation of some communities. That distrust is higher in communities where stop and search powers are used most often, generally where violent crime, driven by a small minority, is highest.

“This is why we are taking the first steps to reset our approach. We want to hear from Londoners and create an agreement between the Met and the public on how we conduct stop and searches in the future.”

Zombie knife attack in front of terrified child in Hackney, east London (PA)
Zombie knife attack in front of terrified child in Hackney, east London (PA)

Ex-police constable Emily Wells, a researcher at the CSJ, added: “It is often the families of victims and perpetrators who want police to be more visible on the streets, more involved in communities, and on the ground delivering preventative programs such as sports interventions and initiatives run from schools.

“On one occasion, we attended the address of a single father working nightshifts in a hospital, he felt that he couldn’t prevent his teenage sons either ending up in prison – or dead.

“He pleaded with us to stop-and-search his sons every time we saw them. He believed this would prevent his sons from making a tragic mistake.

“There have undoubtedly been incidents of misuse of stop and search. In those cases, it is vital that police officers are dismissed. But where stop-and-search is used ethically and lawfully it can save lives.

“While we should maintain multiple programs to reduce youth violence, stop and search remains a tool to use now to prevent more young people being drawn into a life of crime.”