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Wednesday, 4 September, 2002, 05:18 GMT 06:18 UK
Livingstone 'feels safer in New York'
Ken Livingstone
Ken Livingstone wants 35,000 police on the streets
London Mayor Ken Livingstone has admitted that he does not feel as safe in the British capital as he does on the streets of New York.

Outlining plans to increase the numbers of police in London, Mr Livingstone said he would like to return to the pre-war situation, when parents felt safe letting children play outside.

He praised New York for its zero tolerance policy on crime and its 16,000 increase in the number of officers patrolling the streets.

Mr Livingstone said actress Liz Hurley's demands for better policing, made in a recent interview, "laid down a clear agenda for us all".

'Committed'

Speaking at his first weekly mayoral news conference, Mr Livingstone recalled growing up in the "safest city in the world".


Every time we put another 1,000 police officers on the street it costs about 70m a year

Ken Livingstone
He said: "I do feel safe in London, but I don't feel as safe as I did when I went to New York."

The mayor said he was committed to increasing the number of police on London's streets, and that the number was due to pass the 30,000 mark by the end of the financial year.

"I want to be back to something more like I grew up with," he said.

"We have lost the visible presence on the streets.

"The most disturbing fact, I think, is that in over half of the cases the Met would like to bring to court witnesses whom they wish to rely on are too frightened to give evidence."

'Crucial factor'

Mr Livingstone said people were being put in fear of becoming victims of crime as a result of London's "unacceptably high" level of robberies.

New York policeman
New York recruited 16,000 extra officers
He said a target had been set to increase the number of police in the capital to 35,000 within five years - up from the 25,500 when he was elected in May 2000.

But funding would be a crucial factor determining the success or failure of such targets.

"Every time we put another 1,000 police officers on the street it costs about 70m a year," he said.

"How much of that central government is prepared to pay for is the crucial factor."

Gun crime

Despite his praise for New York, the city has a far worse problem with serious crime than London.

Last year there were 641 murders recorded in New York - excluding the 3,000 victims of the World Trade Center attack.

That was a big fall from the all-time high of 2,262 in 1990, but still far greater than London's 171 murders.

Guns and gun crime are also much less common in London than they are in New York.

Congestion charges

During Tuesday's briefing Mr Livingstone also announced that controversial congestion charges in the capital would be scrapped unless they made an impact within two months.

He said the 200m scheme to charge motorists 5 to enter the city centre from next February, would be "pulled" if it failed to meet targets.

Mr Livingstone said: "At the end of that two months if it clearly wasn't working we would know.

"By the end of the Easter break if it wasn't working by then I think we would have to say it would have to be pulled."


Click here to go to BBC London Online
See also:

03 Sep 02 | Entertainment
02 Jul 02 | England
17 Jan 02 | England
14 Apr 00 | London Mayor
03 Sep 02 | England
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