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Scotland Yard’s homicide squad shrinks with murders at decade high

Credit: PA

Scotland Yard’s murder investigation unit has lost a quarter of its officers and staff over the past decade, with homicides in the capital at a decade high, the Press Association has found.

Last year there were 315 fewer police and civilians working in the Metropolitan Police’s homicide and major crime command (HMCC) than in 2008, figures released under freedom of information laws reveal.

Credit: PA Graphics

The unit’s overall strength decreased by 26% over the 10-year period, while the number of major investigation teams (MITs) dropped from 26 to 18.

By 2018 there were half the number of officers and other staff working within those specialist teams than a decade earlier, data from Britain’s largest police force shows.

Scotland Yard said its HMCC includes murder detectives as well as specialist operations, such as Winter Key – its child sex abuse probe – and investigations into alleged electoral fraud and the Grenfell Tower fire.

315
fewer police and civilians working in the HMCC than in 2008
6
murder probes launched in London already this year

Six weeks after the force was first asked to explain the figures, a spokeswoman said: “The Metropolitan Police Service frequently adjusts resources to respond to violence in London.”

However, London Mayor Sadiq Khan blamed a shortfall in police funding, which has seen the overall number of police officers drop below 30,000 for the first time in 15 years.

“This is the stark reality of years of damaging government cuts that have seen the Met having to make colossal savings of £850 million,” a spokesman said.

The revelations come amid a rising tide of violence in the capital with the number of homicides reaching 128 in 2018 – according to PA analysis – the highest level in a calendar year this decade.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has highlighted the link between an increase in violence and a decrease in officer numbers Credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA

London has seen another bloody start to 2019, with six murder probes launched so far, including one into the death of 14-year-old Jaden Moodie.

The youngster was rammed off a moped and repeatedly stabbed in east London last week in what detectives believe was a targeted attack.

Jaden Moodie was stabbed multiple times in east London. Credit: Metropolitan Police

PA analysed figures originally obtained by the Murder Map website – which tracks London homicides – showing the strength of the Met Police’s HMCC, or its predecessors, in terms of officer and staff numbers. The numbers given were not whole and have been rounded up or down accordingly.

The data shows the total strength of the Metropolitan Police’s homicide and major crime command (HMCC) dropped from 1208 in 2008 to 893 in 2018 – a 26% decrease.

The number of HMCC officers dropped from 850 to 715 – a dip of nearly 16% – over the period, while the number of other staff members fell from 358 to 177 – a 50% plunge.

In 2008, the Met had 717 police officers and 168 other staff working across 26 MITs.

But last year there were 402 officers – 43% fewer – and just 36 other staff – a 78% reduction –working across 18 MITs, which represents a 50% overall decrease in MIT strength, according to the data.

Scotland Yard’s HMCC dropped to its lowest staffing levels across the period in 2017, when there were just 590 officers and 168 other staff, making a total strength of 758.

However, a boost in officer numbers to 715 and civilian staff members to 177 last year, saw an increase in total HMCC strength to 893 – a percentage increase of almost 18% from the previous year and a return to its highest level since 2014.

Credit: PA

Figures released separately in December by the Mayor’s office show the overall strength of the Met police went from 31,460 on October 31 2008 to 29,654 on the same date last year – a decrease of 5.7%.

A spokesman for the Mayor said: “This is the stark reality of years of damaging government cuts that have seen the Met having to make colossal savings of £850 million, which has resulted in officer numbers falling below 30,000 for the first time in 15 years.

“While even the Home Office admits there is a link between the increase in violence and a decrease in officer numbers, it’s fallen on deaf ears with ministers failing to reverse the cuts which could see the number of police officers fall still further by 2022.”

The Met was first asked for comment on the figures at the end of November and the following month explained the delay in replying was due to doubts over the accuracy of the force’s own data.

Scotland Yard said last week: “The Metropolitan Police Service frequently adjusts resources to respond to violence in London.

“The remit of the Homicide and Major Crime Command (HMCC) incorporates murder detectives as well as a number of specialist operations including the Met’s special enquiry team, operation Winter Key and enquiries into election fraud.

“HMCC staff figures also reflect those working on the Grenfell Tower fire investigation.”

According to Home Office figures, there were 21,331 fewer police officers in England and Wales as of March last year compared with the same point in 2010 and police funding fell by 19% in real terms since over the same period.

While most police force funding comes directly from central government, around 30% is drawn from council tax through the policing precept levy.

The Home Office said decisions about frontline policing and the deployment of resources in London are a matter for Met Commissioner Cressida Dick and the Mayor of London.

“The Police Funding Settlement provides the most substantial police funding increase since 2010 and will help police forces to meet the financial pressures they face next year, while also providing additional money for recruitment and neighbourhood policing, counter-terrorism, and fighting serious and organised crime,” a spokeswoman said.

“Met police funding will increase by £172m next year if the Mayor of London increases council tax precept by £2 a month for a typical (Band D) household.”

The Mayor’s spokesman added: “Sadiq is doing everything he can by leading a long-term public-health approach to tackling the complex causes of violence, alongside funding youth projects for thousands of young Londoners and raising a further £95m from council tax to invest in the Met, but it will not fill the huge hole in funding left by government cuts.”