Boris Johnson has expressed his vision for a “twin-track” strategy to combat county lines drug gangs by coming “down like thunder” against them but also providing welfare for the “tragic characters” involved in the drugs trade.
Policing and crime took centre stage in an interview with LBC’s Nick Ferrari this morning following yesterday’s announcement stop and search restrictions imposed by Theresa May would be permanently eased in a bid to tackle the frightening knife crime epidemic, part of a wider government crackdown.
Johnson’s successor as mayor of London, Sadiq Khan received a “ritual kicking” as the PM zeroed in on how to tackle crime in the capital.
“This is not the occasion for me to give the Mayor of London one of my ritual kickings,” said Johnson.
Gently pushed by Ferrari he continued, “since you invite me to do so, I think there is more that could be done to fight knife crime on the streets of London, and I would urge the Mayor to do it, I hope. The issue for me is it’s about taking responsibility.”
Looking back at the “pretty grim scene”, when he took over from the previous Labour administration under Ken Livingstone as Mayor of London, Johnson said, “there was nobody taking personal responsibility.”
Finishing Johnson’s answer for him, Ferrari, a regular critic of the authorities’ handling of rising violent crime, interjected: “but you and the commissioners were in lock and step”.
Johnson agreed, but refused to state explicitly whether or not he thinks there has been a breakdown in relations under Khan, insisting that he wants to work with the mayor to “try to fix this problem”.
The Prime Minister was similarly evasive about Dame Cressida Dick, the current Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Force.
Asked whether she was the person to push through his vision, Johnson replied: “I think that she’s a formidable police officer… [it’s] a matter for the Mayor of London and the Home Secretary.”
He was far more direct when outlining his government’s crime strategy, specifically county lines drug gangs thriving in Britain’s cities but operating over much larger areas. The “300,000 problem drug users” fuelling criminal activity need to be looked after, asserted Johnson.
“You need to be putting money into their rehab, into their mental health, into helping them away from the disaster they are making of their lives.”
As for the gangs, “you’ve got to come down like thunder, come down like a tonne of bricks… What I’m trying to get to is a twin-track strategy, come down tough on the county lines drug trains. Wrap them up, roll them up, we’ve done 1,000 already, but also look after the chronic drug users, the tragic characters that get involved.”