Expert warns Londoners will ‘take law into their own hands’ as police fail to take crimes ‘seriously’

Londoners are frustrated by police not taking crimes such as theft, burglaries and arson “seriously” and may end up acting as vigilantes, City Hall has been told.

Police failure to tackle burglaries will head to victims “taking the law into their own hands”, a criminal justice expert has warned.

Londoners are frustrated by police not taking crimes such as theft, burglaries and arson “seriously” and may end up acting as vigilantes, City Hall has been told.

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Speaking at a meeting of the London Assembly’s police and crime committee, Professor Marian Fitzgerald told members she was concerned about the “frightening prospect”.

She told members, who are discussing the mayor’s plan for policing in the capital until 2025, that the “major form of property crime is now fraud”.

Crimes against property, which include burglary, theft, robbery, arson and vehicle crime, are the “majority of offences that most people actually experience,” Prof Fitzgerald said.

She warned: “The danger is we will address all the crimes people are most frightened of.

“But if you want to talk about what ordinary Londoners want in response to being a victim of crime, they want the police to take their experience of property crime seriously.”

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick.

The expert, who is a visiting professor of criminology at the University of Kent, told members: “A lot of [property crime] isn’t being dealt with by the local police at all.

“The public aren’t getting a response when they report it. So what are they going to do long term?

“Nobody is dealing with it. We know who’s doing it - property damage and so on.

“People are going to end up taking the law into their own hands. And that is really a frightening prospect.”

Prof Fitzgerald spoke in response to a question from Marina Ahmad, Labour assembly member for Lambeth and Southwark, who asked about the mayor’s police priorities.

London mayor Sadiq Khan has said the four key areas he wants the force, led by Cressida Dick, to focus on are reducing and preventing violence, increasing trust and confidence, better supporting victims, and protecting people from exploitation and harm.

She also told the committee there had not been a change since 2015 in levels of “serious physical violence” and urged the Met to focus on online crime, including fraud.

Sadiq Khan at Mayor’s Questions. Credit: Jessica Frank-Keyes

“There has been an escalation in the stuff that follows people into their own homes that you can’t get away from because it’s happening online,” the professor said.

“Property crime, entry level crime is happening online.

“If you want to talk about preventing young people getting involved in crime, cyber crime is not just being invaded by the Chinese.

“Kids aren’t doing burglaries these days; they don’t have to. There are easier ways.

“They are much more tech-savvy than the people who are making these policies.

“We need to look online and the answer to that is not putting more police on the streets.”

While Matt Parr, from Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS), added: “At least one third, if not slightly more, of all crime is fraud.

“It’s about 1% of policing resourcing.

“Some is trivial but a lot of it isn’t and you see some absolute horror stories.”

And Prof Fitzgerald added that she did not “underestimate” the impact of violent crime on young people.

“I’ve done a lot of work with young people for a very long time,” she said.

“It makes me weep when I have a class of 15-year-old black boys who could have been going places.

“I look at them and I think, ‘how many of you are going to meet premature violent deaths?’.

“That really upsets and frightens me.”

A Met Police spokesperson said there had been a 32% drop in burglaries over the past two years and the force had appointed a dedicated lead officer and teams focused on tackling burglaries, robberies, and forensics including fingerprints, DNA and CCTV.

They added that from late November, the force was conducting “weeks of action aimed at identifying, arresting and bringing to justice individuals or groups responsible for committing burglaries across London” and the detection rate had risen to 4.7%.

“We recognise there is still a lot of work to do in order to achieve the outcomes for people who live and work in London and we will continue to work tirelessly to achieve these aspirations,” they said.

The spokesperson recommended locking windows and doors, installing burglar alarms, video doorbells, security cameras, or switching on lights, TV or radio via timer to “create an illusion of occupancy” during dark winter evenings.