January 20, 2019

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39 Arrests? London Police Take No Chances After a Stabbing

39 Arrests? London Police Take No Chances After a Stabbing
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LONDON — On the very last day of a year in which crimes involving knives surged in London — and became a hot-button political issue — the police took solving one case to an extreme.

After a man was found stabbed on a street in West London early Monday, 39 people were arrested on suspicion of attempted murder.

It is the largest number of suspects to have been arrested this year for a stabbing in London, a spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Police Service confirmed.

A man thought to be in his mid-30s was found injured after a stabbing was reported in the Hammersmith and Fulham neighborhood just before 1 a.m. The police said the man had been chased by a number of people following an argument in a nearby shop, and two knives were recovered close to the scene.

The victim was treated and taken to a hospital, where he was in critical but stable condition, the police said.

When suspects were tracked down to a house party, attendees would not speak to the authorities, and so officers decided to arrest nearly 40 people present in connection with the crime.

Greg Hands, the member of Parliament for Chelsea and Fulham said on Twitter, “With 39 arrested, it must have been a massive incident.”

The police admitted that it was unusual to arrest so many people in the early stages of an investigation, but described the action as “appropriate.”

Superintendent Mark Lawrence of the Metropolitan Police said the mass arrests came about because of a “lack of cooperation” with officers and the need to secure “essential evidence.”

Some questioned the need to detain dozens of people. One social media user wrote: “39 people arrested, what a waste of police resources.”

Graham Wettone, a former police officer and author, said the arrest of so many people seemed “really extreme” and placed a strain on officers.

“The police are tight for time, they are tight for resources and it will be a huge task to work your way through 39 people on what is possibly the busiest day of the year for the Met,” Mr. Wettone said, referring to New Year’s Eve.

Reported crimes involving knives in England and Wales were at an eight-year high for the year that ended in June 2018, according to the Office for National Statistics. Knife crimes have become a political issue in London, where the highest rates of offenses involving a knife or sharp instrument have been recorded.

For every 100,000 people in the capital, there were 168 knife offenses from 2017 to 2018, figures from the Office for National Statistics show. This was more than double the next highest rate, of 79 per 100,000 people, in the Yorkshire and Humber Region.

Violent crime has been rising over all in London, where more than 130 people were murdered this year. It was the deadliest year in the city for a decade.

Mayor Sadiq Khan has come under fire for his handling of the crime increase — not least from President Trump. “I think he’s done a bad job on crime,” Mr. Trump said in an interview before his visit to Britain in July, although one expert dismissed Mr. Trump’s attack as selectively choosing facts and figures.

Crimes involving knives may, in fact, be diminishing. Figures from the Metropolitan Police showed a 31 percent reduction in the number of young victims of such crimes in September, October and November compared with the same period the previous year. Cressida Dick, the commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, told the BBC, “From what has been a herculean effort from the whole of the Met, we are beginning to see that knife crime has leveled off.”

One former police official cautioned against asserting that knife crime was under control. “We cannot afford to take our eyes off the ball,” said Gerry Campbell, a 30-year veteran of Scotland Yard, as the Metropolitan Police is known. “We must continue with resilient, long-term action to tackle knife crime,” including strengthening community relationships and better coordination between agencies.

As for Monday morning’s case, Mr. Campbell said the police were in a race against time, and would be eager to whittle down the 39 arrested as quickly as possible, as British law allows people to be held for up to 24 hours before they must be charged or released.

Though the police officers created a mountain of work for themselves by detaining so many people, Mr. Campbell said they had taken the right course of action. “A serious incident had taken place — a man was left with life-threatening injuries. I am wholly supportive of the police’s decision.”





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