London Mayor Sadiq Khan is under increasingly heavy fire from his predecessor, residents and even President Trump over rising crime in the city – though Khan says police cuts from the Conservative government are to blame.
Boris Johnson, the former mayor who recently resigned as U.K. foreign secretary, tore into Khan in a recent Op-Ed for The Daily Telegraph for glamming it up at movie premieres while crime spirals out of control.
“Sadiq Khan may be a twinkle-toed mover on the movie premiere red carpet, but his pirouettes on the subject of knife crime are a positive wonder. He blames funding (when he was left with a large war chest by me); he blames the Tory Government; he blames society. He blames everyone but himself, when it is his paramount duty to keep Londoners safe,” Johnson wrote. “It is a pathetic performance.”
Johnson is the latest high-profile figure to dive into the debate over London crime. During his trip to the U.K. earlier this month, Trump doubled down on his long-standing feud with Khan, an outspoken Trump critic.
“You have a mayor who has done a terrible job in London. He has done a terrible job,” Trump said in an interview with The Sun, blaming Khan on both terrorism and crime. “I think he has done a bad job on crime, if you look, all of the horrible things going on there, with all of the crime that is being brought in.”
As of March, London accounted for 17 percent of all recorded crime in England and Wales in the year prior, as well as 42 percent of all recorded robberies. A third of all knife crime took place in London as well.
London temporarily overtook New York in the number of murders in early 2018. In February, London’s police investigated 15 murders while New York saw 11 homicides. In March, the Metropolitan Police murder numbers increased further to 22, while the NYPD’s jumped to 21. New York has since recorded more murders.
London also is facing a rise in acid attacks, skyrocketing by more than 78 percent over the past two years, with 465 such offenses in 2017, up from 260 in 2015, according to police figures obtained by the Evening Standard.
There is little disagreement that rates have been on the up for years in the nation’s capital and Khan has been the focus of much of the resulting ire. In June, he was blasted at a town hall by a hostile crowd unhappy with the rising crime in London since he took office.
“There are no bobbies on our street, Londoners don’t feel safe, our communities don’t feel safe,” a resident shouted at a recent town hall event.
“You give me statistics Mr. Khan, but for me as a parent, I’m telling you, we do not feel safe. We do not feel safe in London and we want you to do something about it!”
But Khan has responded by noting that violent crime is rising across England and Wales as a whole, and has blamed Prime Minister Theresa May’s government, and that of her predecessor David Cameron, for cutting police funding.
“It’s no coincidence that violent crime has steadily risen nationally within a few years of the 2010 election when investment reduced,” he said in an article for The Independent in response to Johnson’s broadside. “Cuts really do have consequences.”
He argued that police numbers are now below 30,000 for the first time since 2003 and blamed “an absent home secretary and a prime minister distracted by Brexit” for rising crime levels.
London residents who spoke to Fox News this month were unanimous that crime is escalating in various parts of the capital, but were mixed about where the blame falls.
“It’s gone diabolical,” Gerry Lewis told Fox News, adding that crime -- particularly knife crime -- had gotten worse, with many calling for the re-establishment of so-called “stop and search.”
“They need more ... police search. I think they are too soft, I really do, they’ve got to crack down on it, it’s as simple as that,” he said.
Benyam Tadewse, a cab driver, said his windows have been broken twice. He blamed the government, not Khan.
“You can blame the mayor but it is not only the mayor’s problem. If he doesn't have the budget, what’s he going to do?”
Others disagreed. Pat Mackie, wearing a Tottenham Hotspur F.C. cap, was particularly blunt in his criticism of the mayor and appeared to endorse Johnson’s criticism that Khan is more interested in turning up to glitzy events than fixing London’s problems.
“The man is a despicable, two-bob w---er. He’d turn up for the opening of an envelope, that geezer,” he said.
He also blamed Khan and other politicians’ emphasis on political correctness, a rise in crime committed by Muslim immigrants and also the replacement of police officers with Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs).
PCSOs, introduced in 2002 across the country, have limited powers compared with regular police officers and are frequently mocked as “plastic bobbies” for their ineffectiveness.
“I can’t remember the last time I saw a copper walking the streets along here,” Mackie said. “You had the PCSOs for a while, but they don’t know their a-- from their elbow.”
Andy King, drinking in a pub in Hackney, told Fox News that while he recognized there were cuts, he noted that under Khan, the police have introduced a “hate crime” unit with 900 dedicated officers that King says could be used for fighting crime instead.
He says that while he lives out of the city, he works within it and notices the effect it is having on Londoners every day.
“It’s clearly worse,” he said about the crime situation. “People are scared.”
Fox News' Lukas Mikelionis contributed to this report.