Police get extra £100m to tackle knife crime ‘epidemic’, Philip Hammond announces

Police forces will get an extra £100m to fight the knife crime “epidemic”, the chancellor has announced.

Philip Hammond said the extra money for police in England and Wales will go towards overtime costs and paying for specialist units dedicated to combating serious violence.

But critics said it was a “short-term fix” and a “drop in the ocean” compared with cuts that forces have faced.

The announcement in the chancellor’s spring statement follows a spate of killings, with 39 fatal stabbings in Britain since the beginning of the year.

Several of the victims have been teenagers.

Official statistics showed that, in the year to March 2018, there were 285 homicides where the method of killing was a knife or sharp instrument – the highest number since the Home Office’s Homicide Index began in 1946.

The violence has focused attention on funding and police numbers – and sparked a debate about how to tackle the problem.

Particular focus has been given to the fact that officer numbers have fallen by almost 20,000 since 2010.

In addition, the National Audit Office has said that total funding for forces in England and Wales was reduced by 19% in real terms from 2010-11 to 2018-19.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid unveiled a provisional settlement back in December that could see police funding increase by almost £1bn from April, including funds raised through council tax.

Mr Hammond told the Commons on Wednesday that several police and crime commissioners have already pledged to use the additional cash to recruit and train new officers.

But he said “that takes time and action is needed now”.

The chancellor said the further £100m will be ringfenced to pay for additional overtime targeted specifically at tackling knife crime, as well as to fund new violent crime reduction units to help deliver a “wider cross-agency response to this epidemic”.

Mr Javid said the funding, which includes £80m of new money from Treasury coffers, will allow forces to quickly crack down on knife crime in the areas where it is most prevalent.

He added: “I am deeply concerned by the rising levels of knife crime that is devastating communities and robbing young people of their lives and futures.

“Law enforcement plays a key role – and it is clear from speaking to police leaders in recent weeks that they need an immediate increase in resources.”

However, the government faced calls to make a bigger commitment to police funding following a review of Whitehall spending, planned to take place over the summer.

John Apter, chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said the money was just a “short-term” fix while knife crime “continues to plague our towns and cities”.

He warned: “We still urgently need additional resources to solve this issue in the long run.

“The government must make a significant investment in the spending review to give police the long-term boost they need.”

Sara Thornton, chairwoman of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, said the extra money would help police forces “strengthen our immediate response to knife crime and serious violence”.

She added: “Bringing violence down is a police priority.

“We know what works to bring down violence and this additional funding will help us to increase the number of officers available to carry out targeted patrols in crime hotspots, increase our use of stop and search and disrupt gangs and crime groups.”

West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson said the funding does not make up for the £175m in cuts his force has had to bear, but recognised it will “partially cover the extra funding needed in the short-term”.

Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, welcomed the “limited action” – but said it was a “drop in the ocean” compared with “huge cuts” to police and preventative services.

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