Cuts to the ‘Murder Squad’

The Metropolitan Police unit responsible for investigating murders* in London was cut by nearly 40 per cent between 2004 and 2017 (see table below).

Figures obtained via a Freedom of Information request show the Homicide and Serious Crime Command (HSCC) reduced in total strength almost every year over that period. The sharpest fall was from 2011 onwards.

The number of Major Investigation Teams (MIT), which are responisble for investigating homicide cases*, has also decreased from 26 to 18 since 2011.

While the total number of homicides fell by 50 per cent between 2004 and 2014, there were significant increases in 2015 and 2017 (according to Metropolitan Police figures).

There are likely to be around 150 homicides in 2018, although recent months have seen lower figures than at the start of the year, possibly because of the police response since.

Although there are many possible causes for the increase in violent crime since 2014, cuts to police budgets (and public services in general) across England and Wales may well have released the pressure or created some kind of “tipping point”.

The figures also show that the HSCC is now increasing in strength, with the figures for 2018 returning to a level last seen in 2013.

NOTES: The figures provided for “strength” (in response to the request for the “number of officers and staff”) were not whole numbers and have been rounded up or down accordingly.

*The Homicide and Serious Crime Command does not just investigate murder. It also takes on (for example) high profile crimes, “critical incidents”, serial stranger rapes, work-related deaths, unexplained deaths, and high risk missing persons enquiries.

The figures cover a period involving at least two structural reorganisations of the Met. For 2004 and 2005 the figures given are the total for the units designated SCD1(2), SCD1(3), and SCD(4). For 2006 to 2012 they are for SCD1. For 2013 to 2018 they are for SCO1.

The total “strength” given for the MITs (not included in table) usually accounts for around three-quarters of the total “strength” of the HSCC.

Although the FOIA request was for 2003 onwards, no figures were provided for 2003, when there were more than 200 homicides (various figures have been given ranging between 204 and 216).

Table: Strength of the Homicide and Serious Crime Command (or equivalent) 2004 to 2018

YearOfficerStaffTotalMI TeamsHomicides
20049782601238N/A188
20059312821213N/A181
2006895364126026172
2007851347119826163
2008850358120826155
2009810356116625130
2010811344115526125
2011768317108626118
201267828496225106
201365626592124110
20146212048252294
201564214678818119
201665013378319109
201759016875818134
201871517789218150**

**Estimated total for 2018, based on 100 homicides by the beginning of September.

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3 Comments

  1. In fact there have only been about 20 murders in London since the beginning of September, so it looks like the estimate of 150 this year won’t be right, and the total will be very similar to last year.

  2. That’s a fair point – it’s difficult to know what effect the cuts in manpower and teams actually had over time. A lot of other factors are involved, including general cuts to services. There’s still an argument that the cuts eventually went too far and either released the pressure somehow or left the police struggling to react when there was a surge in violent incidents and murders.

    Yes it now looks like there will now be under 140 homicides, although the Metropolitan Police figures are usually higher than ours for a number of different reasons.

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