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Met chief hits back at Theresa May's claim there is no link between rise in violent crime and police cuts

Britain's most senior police officer has said there is "obviously" a link to violent crime and police cuts after Theresa May rebuffed a correlation between a fall in staffing levels and a huge spike in fatal stabbings.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick disagreed with the prime minister's claims that cuts to youth services and police numbers had not played a role in a rise in violent crime among young people.

Speaking on radio station LBC, Ms Dick said: "There is some link between violent crime on the streets obviously and police numbers, of course there is and everybody would see that."

Agreeing with the UK's top cop was prolific anti-knife crime campaigner Mark Prince, who told ITV News Political Correspondent Romilly Weeks that Theresa May is "insulting our intelligence" with her claims.

Mr Prince, whose son Kiyan was stabbed to death in 2006, said: "If [police] are saying that it's having an impact on kids carrying knives, kids using knives, then you need to listen to the guys that you've employed."

He added: "You're not on the streets Theresa May, so you can't make those comments, so that's quite foolish for me."

He echoed the words of Ms Dick, who said: "I think that what we all agree on is that in the last few years police officer numbers have gone down a lot, there's been a lot of other cuts in public services, there has been more demand for policing and therefore there must be something and I have consistently said that."

Ms Dick said tackling violent crime remained her priority and that her officers would "do everything in their power" to bring perpetrators to justice.

Ms Dick also accused middle class drug users of fuelling violent crime.

The drugs trade is one of the key drivers behind street violence, particularly county lines networks that target children and teenagers to work as couriers.

  • Anti-knife crime campaigner Mark Prince speaks to ITV News

Asked if she agreed that middle class drug users could be accused of having "blood on their hands," Ms Dick said: "I think anybody who is not seriously mentally ill, seriously addicted, who is seeking 'recreational' drugs, particularly class A drugs, yes, I think that is a good way to put it, I do."

The Met is currently trying to recruit 3,000 officers, 1,500 of which are new posts. This will still leave the force below the numbers it had in 2013/14.

On Monday, the prime minister rebuffed claims reductions in police numbers and cuts to youth services have contributed to the rise in violent crime after two 17-year-olds were stabbed to death in separate incidents in London and Manchester over the weekend.

Floral tributes at the scene near St Neot's Road in Harold Hill, east London. Credit: PA

Mrs May's comments prompted criticisms from senior policing figures, with the body that represents rank-and-file officers describing her as "delusional".

John Apter, national chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said: "Policing has been stripped to the bone and the consequences are clear, splashed across newspaper front pages and TV news bulletins - children being murdered on our streets."

Mr Prince questioned the prime minister's apparent reluctance to listen to police, saying: "You can't be in disagreement with your own system that you've put in place, because they're your inside information to what's going on in the streets."

Nazir Afzal, the former chief prosecutor in Greater Manchester whose 17-year-old relative was recently stabbed to death in Birmingham, also criticised Mrs May.

"I am aghast at what the Prime Minister had to say about police numbers – that there is no correlation between the number of police and the amount of crime. Of course there is otherwise why would we have police at all," he told BBC2’s Newsnight.

“When you reduce police numbers by 21,000 – hundreds in pretty much every city – there isn’t the intelligence any more, there isn’t the neighbourhood policing any more, people don’t know where to go.”

Former Metropolitan Police commissioner Lord Hogan-Howe called for policing numbers to return to their former figure as he demanded that ministers “get a grip on the crisis”.

Yousef Makki was fatally stabbed on Saturday night in Cheshire. Credit: Family handout

Home Secretary Sajid Javid will chair a meeting of police chiefs on Wednesday, including chief constables from the areas most affected by knife crime.

The demand for action has heightened in recent days following the killings of 17-year-old Jodie Chesney in a London park on Friday and 17-year-old Yousef Ghaleb Makki in Altringham on Saturday.

Jodie's family said her death was a "random and unprovoked attack on a beautiful, lovely and quirky young girl with her whole life in front of her."

Two 17-year-olds have been arrested in relation to the fatal attack on Yousef in the Cheshire village of Hale Barns at around 6.40pm on Saturday.

His family described the Manchester Grammar school student as a "loving and caring son and brother" who dreamed of becoming a heart surgeon.