The Met Police borough commander of Southwark has spoken to the News, after data released last month showed many types of violent crime were on the rise.
Detective superintendent Simon Messinger firstly addressed new knife and gun-crime figures, which showed incidents of both kinds had increased in the year 2016-17 compared to 2015-16. Southwark also had the lowest conviction rates for knife-crime of any London borough, with 15.4 per cent of cases ending successfully.
He said “reluctance” of victims to report incidents to police was a barrier to resolving crimes, and that failure to do so could lead to further acts of violence being committed in retaliation. “A suspect one week may be a victim the next,” he said.
“A considerable amount of work continues to be done to get people to give evidence. This is a far wider issue and there is sustained support in the effort to understand why people feel the need to carry knives and use them. This is a social issue that is not confined to Southwark or even London.
“We will continue to work with the local authority, partner agencies, voluntary sector and the community to address violent crime.
“Naturally, any reactive investigation will be considerably more difficult if the victim and witnesses are unwilling to engage with police… We continue to work in an effort to safeguard victims.”
But he said social media had become an increasingly popular way of giving evidence, and that Facebook Messenger could soon become available. “We want to make sure we are as easy to contact as possible,” he said.
Following “positive feedback” on the Met’s roll out of Twitter accounts given to each area’s dedicated ward officers, the Met is now “looking into” giving control of Facebook Messenger to 101 call centres.
A positive piece of news to come from the Met’s crime data release last month was the reduced number of reported drug offences, which fell by 10.7 per cent while conviction rates rose by 0.1 per cent. And as a sub-category, drug-trafficking fell by nineteen per cent.
This, Mr Messinger believed, was down to education with young people, and because a higher proportion of the drug crimes reported were repeat-offences, which therefore warranted custodial sentences. He said the conviction rates could also be down to more new legal-highs legislation giving officers “more powers” to deal with drug offences.
Mr Messinger spoke of how other types of crime had been stemmed by his requests for specialist resources from the Met’s Central Command.
He said “very regular applications” have been made for “corporate assets”, such as Road and Transport Command buses, dogs units, and Territorial Support group (used to break up public-order incidents such as riots or violent crowds).
“Such resources are highly sought after. On each occasion that Southwark has been provide with pan London assets, there has been a positive impact. The crime type being tackled has reduced for the given period.”
He added: “Transport Command have worked with us closely to look at moped crime in the north of the borough, and we have made requests for extra officers around pickpocketing in Borough Market.”
Requests have also been made for horse-mounted officers to be present in robbery hotspots. “They’re a magnet for people to come and talk to officers and people like to come and see them and they have a great presence,” he said.
The News asked Mr Messinger if the borough had experienced an increase in acid attacks, following national press reports that substances such as ammonia and household cleaners carried in drinks bottles were becoming a “weapon of choice” for young people, instead of knives. Met Police figures showed 261 acid attacks were reported in 2015, compared with 454 in 2016.
He responded: “Not that I have seen, and I have seen some data that stretches a number of years back. Southwark was relatively low compared to other areas of London… It would be single figures since I came here [in July 2016].”