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January 16, 2011

London is safer under Boris.

Amid all the consternation over the tube strikes, little has been made of a press release last week which revealed that 2010 saw the lowest murder rate in London since 1978. There was also a decrease in knife and race hate murders. Indeed, there is a consistent trend of reduced crime in London under Boris. Since his election as Mayor in 2008, crime has fallen by 5%, murders have fallen by an average of 25%, youth crime has fallen by 11% and robberies have fallen by 19%. Remember, too, that this is despite a recession, which historically produces an increase in crime.

This is a serious achievement for Boris – probably his biggest achievement to date – and is the result of tough policies and a willingness to face problems head-on. He’s taken 9,500 knives off the streets of London, cracked down on illegal minicabs, banned alcohol on all Transport for London services, delivered an extra 500 police officers to patrol buses and rail stations, opened the Heron Unit to reduce the rate of youth reoffending, launched Payback London to improve the behaviour of teenagers on public transport, and quadrupled London’s rape crisis provision.

Such successful activity is in sharp contrast to the approach taken by Ken Livingstone, which primarily consisted of shirking responsibility (“I feel no responsibility at all.”) and blaming crime on the media (“If it bleeds, it leads.”). His relaxed attitude to two teenage deaths at the end of March 2008 has long been seen as one of the reasons he lost the mayoralty just five weeks later – Boris described it as “crass insensitivity” at the time. An article by Pippa Crerar a couple of months ago showed that Ken evidently hasn’t learnt his lesson – he’d again blamed the media for fuelling violence amongst teenagers on London’s streets. As she points out…

“Last year [2009] there were a total of 16 deaths [teenagers murdered], compared with 27 in 2007 and 30 in 2008, on Ken’s watch. Of course no one individual is to blame but if Boris has proved one thing, it is that by targeting gangs and individuals, stepping up stop and search (however controversial it may be) and bringing in knife arches, a politician can at least try to do something about it.

It’s not just the politicians who were upset by Ken’s remarks. Gary Trowsdale of the Damilola Trust said that Mr Livingstone’s record on dealing with youth violence was ‘absolutely appalling’.”

The difference between the two men’s approaches – Boris’s successful proactivity compared to Ken’s laissez-faire shrugging of the shoulders – will be one of the key dividing lines for Boris over the next year.

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