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Thursday, 14 February, 2002, 12:55 GMT
Blunkett issues Met crime warning
Sir John Stevens
Sir John has been given an ultimatum to succeed
London's police force has been issued with a six-month ultimatum by the home secretary to sort out violent street crime.

In a stark warning to Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir John Stevens, David Blunkett threatened to use new powers to send in his own management hit squad if the force failed to deliver significant improvements within six months.


We need to each take responsibility for our area and be clear what it is and then hold each other to account for what happens

David Blunkett
In an interview with London's Evening Standard newspaper, Mr Blunkett said he wanted a clampdown on the "visible signs of violence and street robbery" by the summer.

He has set a further deadline that within two years there should be a strategy that will see all crime brought further under control.

In his ultimatum to Sir John, the home secretary said: "We will give you the freedom to do the job, but if you don't do it, I'll have to intervene.

"Because in the end the people of London, as with the rest of the country, will turn to me as home secretary and say: 'what did you do about it?'."

The powers that Mr Blunkett is threatening to use are in his controversial police reform bill.

David Blunkett
Mr Blunkett aims to radically increase police numbers
Among other things, it grants the home secretary the power to direct a chief constable to take specific steps to improve a force's performance.

Police leaders have expressed alarm at the bill which should be in place within six months and which places great emphasis on senior officers being made more accountable.

On Wednesday Mr Blunkett held talks with former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani about a variety of tactics successfully employed there to reduce crime.

The home secretary expressed particular interest in learning about a computer system introduced by Mr Giuliani which tracks the performance of each divisional police chief.

Mr Blunkett said: "My job is to get resources, it's to set the framework, but it is the Met Police Authority, the mayor and the Met together that will make the difference.

"We need to each take responsibility for our area and be clear what it is and then hold each other to account for what happens."

Last week Scotland Yard re-deployed 475 officers to fight street robbery.

High aims

At the end of the first week of Operation Safer Streets there had been 1,536 arrests and the number of allegations of street crime had fallen 12% from 511 to 452 incidents.

Mr Blunkett also said that he intended to increase the number of officers working in the capital from 26,000 to somewhere in the region of New York levels - 42,000 police.

That coincides with calls by London Mayor Ken Livingstone to have 40,000 police in place within the next five years.

Mr Blunkett believes it will take between five to 10 years to achieve those kind of figures.

Plans to increase police numbers were welcomed by Sir John who refused to comment on Mr Blunkett's threat to send a management hit squad into the Met.

But Glen Smyth, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, said the home secretary was struggling to save his "political skin" ahead of his battle with police to reform their pay and conditions.

Crackdown?

"Powers to crack down on failure should be enforced on the Home Office, because if anywhere is failing, it's there," said Mr Smyth.

He went on to say there were 700 fewer police officers in London than when Labour came to power and 2,000 less than 10 years ago.

On Wednesday the Home Office announced an increase in Metropolitan Police numbers to the tune of 1,116 between March and December, 2002 - a total of 25,994.

Mr Blunkett has also pledged to have 130,000 police in England and Wales by next March.

See also:

15 Jan 02 | Europe
'Huge rise' in violent crime
18 Dec 01 | UK Politics
UK police numbers leap
03 Jul 01 | UK Politics
Tories attack on police numbers
16 Jan 01 | UK Politics
Sharp rise in violent crime
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