Crime in London is at a record low while reports of anti-social behaviour surge

London is seeing its lowest level of crime for at least the last four years as lockdown creates fewer opportunities for burglars, thieves and muggers.

New figures show April had the lowest total number of recorded offences since comparable monthly data was first published in May 2016.

Some of the drops have been huge. Theft from the person was down by 86% compared to April 2019, while robbery dropped by 70% and shoplifting by 54%. Fewer open shops  and fewer potential victims on the streets  have meant less opportunity and therefore much less acquisitive crime.

Burglaries are down by 42%, which also stands to reason. If everyone is at home, burglary becomes far riskier.

Violent crimes with injury  crucially, not including domestic abuse  are down by 41%.

Just as significant are the crimes that have not dropped dramatically.

Reports of common assault fell by only 5% in April 2020 compared to April 2019.

The Metropolitan Police say that common assaults tend to occur when people are known to each other – including domestic assaults.

And though recorded crime is down, police are still being kept busy.

Calls reporting anti-social behaviour  which aren’t counted as crimes  have hit a record high.

There were 69,931 such calls in London in April, roughly one every 40 seconds.

That is three times more than the 21,724 recorded in April 2019, and a record high. 

Lockdown provides the most likely explanation: what counts as “anti-social behaviour” now, when most people are supposed to be at home or keeping a safe distance from others, is very different to pre-epidemic days.

When we look at individual boroughs we find Tower Hamlets had the most “excess” anti-social behaviour calls (2,603) compared to the level we’d expect in an average April.

That was followed by Hackney (2,452), Newham (2,412) and Haringey (2,366).

–Michael Goodier


Sadiq Khan and Grant Shapps clash over free bus travel for under 18s

A London bus at Victoria station. Image: Getty.

The latest front in the row between Transport for London (TfL) and national government over how to fund the capital’s transport system: free bus travel for the under 18s.

Two weeks ago, you’ll recall, TfL came perilously close to running out of money and was forced to ask for a bail out. The government agreed, but offered less money, and with more strings attached, than the agency wanted. At present, there are a range of fare discounts – some up to 100% – available to children depending on their age and which service they’re using, provided they have the right Oyster card. One of the government’s strings, the mayor’s office says, was to end all free TfL travel for the under 18s, Oyster or no Oyster.

The Department for Transport’s line on all this is that this is about maximising capacity. Many working-age people need to use buses to get to their jobs: they’re more likely to be able to do that, while also social distancing, if those buses aren’t already full of teenagers riding for free. (DfT cited the same motivation for banning the use of the Freedom Pass, which provides free travel for the retired, at peak times.)

But in an open letter to transport secretary Grant Shapps, the mayor, Sadiq Khan, wrote that TfL believed that 30% of children who currently received free travel had a statutory entitlement to it, because they attend schools more than a certain distance from their homes. If TfL doesn’t fund this travel, London’s boroughs must, which apart from loading costs onto local government means replacing an administrative system that already exists with one that doesn’t. 

Some Labour staffers also smell Tory ideological objections to free things for young people at work. To quote Khan’s letter:

“It is abundantly clear that losing free travel would hit the poorest Londoners hardest at a time when finances are stretched more than ever... I want to make sure that families who might not have a choice but to use public transport are not further disadvantaged.”

London’s deputy mayor for transport, Heidi Alexander, is set to meet government officials next week to discuss all this. In the mean time, you can read Khan’s letter here.

UPDATE: The original version of this piece noted that the full agreement between the mayor and DfT remained mysteriously unpublished. Shortly after this story went live, the agreement appeared. Here it is.

Jonn Elledge was founding editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites.