Sanction detection rate (Supplementary) [2]

Session date: 
May 22, 2013
Question By: 
Kit Malthouse
GLA Conservatives
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


Kit Malthouse (AM): Mr Mayor, while I applaud my colleagues' endeavours over cautions and looking at Metropolitan Police Service data over the last few years. Would you also agree with me that while it is dangerous to talk in absolute numbers, it is often dangerous to talk in average percentages and that actually there may be characteristics of London which mean that an average percentage sanction detection rate is also deceptive? For instance, Mr Mayor, if you looked at homicide as a crime, I think you would find that the Metropolitan Police Service's sanction detection rate is well up into the 90s. There are other areas where the Metropolitan Police Service excels in the work that it does and is the world standard in terms of detection.

Would you also agree that there are characteristics in London that lead to a lower average that may also be deceptive? For instance, the Metropolitan Police Service has national responsibilities that it undertakes and crimes that take place in other parts of the country are reported in London and counted in the Metropolitan Police Service figures. I will give you a high-profile example at the moment: the Savile investigation. These are offences that were committed across the entire nation, not just in London, and will count in the Metropolitan Police Service's sanction detection numbers. Similarly, any crimes reported under counterterrorism would count in the Metropolitan Police Service's figures and any other national response, not least fraud and cybercrime where the Metropolitan Police Service leads nationally, will also be reported in London and counted in our numbers. It might be worth breaking out the various sanction detection rates across crime types to see what the true picture actually is. There are also, obviously, I hope you will agree, the large number of visitors that we have, people who come and are sadly subject to crime but then return to their country and therefore cannot give further evidence that may be required in the investigation of a crime and may also result in no further action on crimes because tourists just simply are not here, having had their phone taken.

I guess my question is would you agree that it is deceptive to deal in an average percentage across such a huge organisation with national responsibilities and a massive number of visitors to a city?

Supplementary To: 


Answer for Sanction detection rate (Supplementary) [2]

Answer for Sanction detection rate (Supplementary) [2]

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Yes. You have made some very good points there. What you say about homicide is certainly right and it bears repeating. London is now one of the safest big cities in the world. If you look at our homicide rate by comparison even with supposedly peaceful looking places on the European continent, we are doing very well, certainly by comparison with New York. That is a tribute to the work of the Metropolitan Police Service. The sanction detection rate in that category of crime is very impressive.

If you look at, for instance, theft from the person, however, there Tony's ire would be excited because the figures are not brilliant. They have a sanction detection rate of 2.7% on theft from the person. That clearly needs to improve and there is a target for improving it. By the way, that is caused very largely by one of the particular difficulties we have now with a secondary trade, as it were, in stolen mobile phone gizmos particularly from one particular company and that is one of the things that we are trying to tackle. The general thrust of what you are saying is absolutely correct.

What it should not allow us to do is to go easy on the Metropolitan Police Service in catching criminals. A sanction detection rate, by the way, for those who do not know what a sanction detection rate is, is how many times you actually get the people whodunit and bring them to justice. That is the key thing. We want that to go up.

Kit Malthouse (AM): Would you also agree with me that sanction detection rate targets can be a very dangerous thing to pursue? Certainly when sanction detection rates became a priority target under the previous national Government, there were quite a lot of unintended consequences driven by that target because it is very easy for the police to go for the easy crimes

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Round up the usual suspects?

Kit Malthouse (AM): round up the usual suspects and go for sanction detection and up their rate. So we used to find, if you remember, Mr Mayor, that things would be deemed to be a crime that were not previously a crime. A police officer would be called to a school, for instance, where there might have been a playground fight. That would be deemed to be an assault. Those two young people would get a criminal record. That was an easy sanction detection and diverting the police towards dealing with that I guess low-level antisocial behaviour in place of the tougher stuff would be a consequence of targeting entirely on sanction detection.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I think that is a valid point. Len is interjecting that that is what they are doing now, they are screening things out, they are skewing the figures. I do not accept this, Len. I am about to say something I hope you will find favourable. I want to have a proper look at this. I think what we will do is we will get MOPAC to make a proper assessment of whether screening out is increasing and whether your charge against the police can really be sustained and let us have some real evidence on this. I do not think it is true. What Kit [Malthouse] says is right. There are particular circumstances in London which means the sanction detection rate is chronically low and always will be lower than other parts of the country. If Len is really onto something in saying that screening out is now being used as a tool to manage crime figures, then we need to be onto that. I have not seen the evidence for it yet but my undertaking to the Assembly now is I will use MOPAC to get to the bottom of it.