The Metropolitan Police will cut the number of murder detectives working in London despite the homicide rate climbing rapidly, reports claim.
Top detectives will instead be deployed to reinforce teams working on other crimes such as burglary and assault, according to the The Telegraph.
Scotland Yard is still trying to plug recruitment gaps in the capital, police chief Sir Mark Rowley warning in September it was losing officers faster than it could recruit.
But investigators already under intense pressure warn they are at risk of ‘burning out’ if the plans go through, with the homicide rate remaining high into the new year.
A senior murder detective told The Telegraph: ‘The officers are telling us they are in danger of burning out and yet the top brass are telling us we need to make efficiencies.
‘The idea that there is any fat to trim within murder is crazy. If anything, we need more resources, not less.’
Murder rates have been falling overall, but detectives have battled to investigate a murder nearly every other day since the new year.
London’s knife crime epidemic has also increased each year since Covid, with 13,503 incidents in the capital between July 2022 and July 2023, up 21 per cent year on year.
Then Asst. Commissioner Mark Rowley gives a statement on March 7, 2018 in Salisbury
A total of 106 people were murdered in London in 2022 – a recent low, but made more difficult by a shortfall in available investigators across the capital
The Met has been struggling to recruit for some months, Sir Mark Rowley last year blaming the Home Office for now granting access to additional funds.
The Commissioner, giving evidence to the London Assembly Police and Crime Committee, said: ‘I’m really disappointed that government policy means that the approximately £60 million of funding for the officers that we didn’t recruit has been withdrawn.
‘I could use that money very effectively in growing police staff members to free officers up to go on the streets.
‘We have the smallest proportion of police staff in the organisation of any police force in the country – that’s something I’ve been concerned about since day one and we’ve got officers effectively doing support and resource functions instead because we don’t have the staff.’
In August it was reported the government had withdrawn £31 million in recruitment funding from Scotland Yard in spite of warnings it was already anticipating a shortfall in staff of some 2,000 officers by 2024.
Ministers had set aside funding as part of a Tory manifesto pledge to recruit 20,000 new officers over a period of five years by March 2023, dubbed the Police Uplift Programme.
As the Met did not meet its recruitment targets, it was then hit with an compounded loss of £30.8 million earmarked as grant funding.
A spokesperson for mayor Sadiq Khan said at the time the decision was ‘ill-judged’ and ‘deeply regrettable’, as reported by the Evening Standard.
‘Against the backdrop of devastating Government cuts, the Mayor is doing everything he can to support the Met to recruit and retain the best officers to serve London’s communities,’ said a spokesperson.
The Home Office defended the decision, a spokesperson saying the Met could expect £102mn more for the 2023-24 financial year than it received the year prior.
But by October, research showed the number of safer neighbourhood police officers in London had fallen by as much as 64 per cent since 2015 – a startling change in the number of officers dedicated to serving a specific community in the capital.
The decline was also much higher than the 27 per cent average decline across England and Wales, the BBC noted.
Sarah Olney, Lib Dem MP for Richmond Park, said the research showed ‘the Met’s frontline teams have been decimated over the past 8 years’.
‘We’ve seen fewer and fewer police walking our streets, instead blue lights come screaming in whenever there’s an incident. They’re reacting to crime, not preventing it.
‘Burglaries, muggings and car thefts aren’t stopped by response units. It’s the fear that an officer could be round the corner at any moment that deters crime.’
File photo of Metropolitan Police officer outside the Houses of Parliament on March 21, 2023
Full Fact noted that while the government had reached its target of recruiting 20,000 more officers in England and Wales by last year, it ignored a fall in the number of officers in the years prior to 2017.
‘There are currently only around 3,5000 more officers than in 2010,’ it concluded.
Sir Mark said last year the public view of the Met’s culture may further hamper the ability to recruit amid high-profile cases involving former officers.
He acknowledged ‘wider public sector issues’ could also add to the difficulty.