My action plan to cut crime by rebuilding London’s neighbourhood police
For decades, Londoners have been rightly proud to live in one of the safest cities on earth - but this status is under threat. Too many young lives are being cut short by a wave of violent crime.
We need a Mayor willing to step up and take responsibility for this crisis. It’s time to get a grip and take action.
My London policing plan would make policing local again: six officers assigned to your area - tripling current numbers out on the streets, building lasting connections with residents, in place for years not months and answerable to a dedicated borough commander. You’ll know their names, have their phone number and see them in your community.
The causes of crime, especially gang and knife crime, are complex. We must work with young people who are vulnerable to crime — important work that can take many years. But there are also some things we can, and must, do immediately to bring down violence. Londoners, after all, deserve to be safe.
Above all, if elected Mayor, this crisis will become my top priority on day one. If I don’t cut violent crime in my first two years, I’ll quit. No more passing the buck or heads buried in the sand.
My whole life has been about bringing people together to tackle incredibly tough problems. Whether cutting violence in our prisons or working to rebuild communities in Iraq and Afghanistan, ripped apart by extremism and war. I know we can turn this around.
As new polling shows more than 75% of Londoners think crime is out of control in the city, more than 50% feel unsafe on their own street after dark, and over 80% want to see more local police in their area, Rory Stewart launched Operation Local - putting uniformed neighbourhood officers, accessible and visible to all, back at the heart of how we reduce crime in London.
Neighbourhood patrolling is the bedrock of all policing, and essential to make our streets and communities safe. Yet in recent years local policing has been downgraded in favour of centralised taskforces, and command units stretched across multiple boroughs. Too often neighbourhood police officers are sent out of their boroughs to other tasks, meaning local teams are hollowed out.
“Safety, and the escalating levels of violent crime, are the number one concerns of Londoners. People don’t feel safe, and the situation is getting worse.
“As Mayor I will grip this crisis immediately, and take action by reinstating the foundational elements of good community policing. I will triple the number of neighbourhood police officers on the street - in every single borough and ward - and I will bring back experienced former police officers to train and mentor new recruits.
“The police do an incredible job, but too often they have been diverted to centralised taskforces and specialist units, and the relationship between local police and local people is lost. I will turn this around by emphasising the value of those relationships - ensuring that every Londoner knows the name and number of their local neighbourhood team.
“This is the first part of my plan to address the unacceptable levels of crime in London, that have been allowed to spiral out of control. The Mayoral Election this year can be a turning point - a vote for me is a vote for tackling this crisis head-on, with less party politics and more action.”
Rory Stewart, Independent candidate for Mayor of London
Boosting numbers of police on the neighbourhood beat
With evidence showing that visible neighbourhood policing helps reduce crime, Rory will ensure that each and every community in London has visible and accessible police officers.
Rory will triple the number of neighbourhood police officers on the streets of London in his first year in office - meaning that 2,369 new full-time officers will be sent into neighbourhood policing roles. On top of that, he will triple the number of Special Constables by the end of his first term.
Demonstrating his commitment to get to grips with the issue, Rory will also undertake the training to become a Special Constable, and will get out twice a month to patrol with frontline officers.
By being embedded in the communities they serve, Neighbourhood officers will know their beat inside out. This knowledge will improve officers’ ability to engage in precision policing, deploying resources where the need is greatest - and ensure that known crime hotspots, for example around schools and tube stations, become safe again for local residents. This will mean that police officer time is used intelligently - and that officers can stay ahead of technologically advanced gangs.
In addition to boosting neighbourhood policing numbers, response teams will be put back on to a borough footing - meaning officers who respond to emergencies will be at the scene more quickly, and will know the area and its residents better.
Neighbourhood teams backed up by a network of “surge teams”
As well as bolstering neighbourhood officers, Rory will introduce a number of surge teams that can deploy to crime hotspots to stop violence and prevent crime before it happens - or respond in force to major incidents. By reinforcing the work of neighbourhood police, and drawing on the intelligence and insight they gather, these teams will exponentially increase their effectiveness.
New recruits, reinforced by years of experience
New recruits promised by central government will be a crucial part of reducing crime, but they must have proper training and strong leadership.
Every year the Metropolitan Police is losing valuable experience and expertise - a fact recognised by the current Commissioner. Rory will turn this around by introducing a “legends programme”, whereby experienced former police officers will be brought back to train and mentor new recruits.
Communities at the heart of policing
As part of Operation Local, Rory will ensure that police officers are working closely with communities - and are accessible to them. In practice, this will mean all Londoners will know the names of their local neighbourhood officers, and will be able to drop in to see them during surgery hours in local cafés, pubs, libraries and train stations. They will also have a non-emergency phone number specific to their neighbourhood team.
Rory will also emphasise the importance of regular community feedback - with face-to-face meetings as well as social media and apps being used.
These changes are designed to help improve relations, intelligence, and effectiveness in combating violent crime.
Alongside this, and in order to drive a broad, representative police force, Rory will triple the number of voluntary Special Constables to over 5,000 by the end of his first term. Drawn from all communities living and working in London, they will support neighbourhood police teams with determination, energy and compassion.
Putting his job on the line
While recognising that the causes of crime, especially gang and knife crime, are complex, -- and that working with young people who are vulnerable to crime is crucial and can take many years -- Rory is clear that there are some things we can, and must, do immediately to bring crime rates down across the capital.
Reflecting the priority and importance Rory places on this issue, he has pledged to resign if he does not reduce violent street crime in London within two years of being elected.