Has crime surged in London since Sadiq Khan became mayor?

Has crime surged in London since Sadiq Khan became mayor?

By: siri christiansen&
April 23 2024

Share Article: facebook logo twitter logo linkedin logo
Has crime surged in London since Sadiq Khan became mayor?

(Source: REUTERS/Yann Tessier)

In the lead-up to London’s mayoral election on May 2, where the incumbent Mayor, Sadiq Khan, is seeking a third term, many social media posts claim that Khan’s eight years in the role have contributed to a crime surge in the capital. 

Many of these posts come from Conservative-affiliated social media accounts that aim to promote the Conservative mayoral candidate Susan Hall, who wrote in a Daily Express tabloid column that "Sadiq Khan has arrogantly ignored spiraling crime in London." While the Home Secretary and the Mayor are jointly responsible for the actions and directions of London’s Metropolitan police force, the Mayor is ultimately in charge of setting the strategic direction of the police force.

Several of these posts have, however, turned out to be misleading. The Conservative party’s official X (formerly Twitter) account swiftly edited a video claiming that London has become the "crime capital of the world" after X users pointed out that one of the video clips showing mass panic at a tube station was, in fact, not from London– but from New York. 

Footage from the Conservatives’ video.

Original footage from the New York Metro.

Similarly, the Tottenham Conservative Association claimed on X in November 2023 that gun crime has "soared by 2,500 percent in just one year" under Sadiq Khan – and even though the figure came from a flawed data analysis by the Daily Mail, which has since retracted the claim and issued a clarification, the X post (archived here) is still active.

londoncrime image1
(Source: X/Screenshot/Modified by Logically Facts)

Logically Facts dives into the data to provide further context on three of the most common crime surge claims so that you can go to the polling station fully informed.

Claim: Knife crime in London is up by 54 percent

Posts by the Conservative party candidate, the Tottenham Conservatives association, and podcast host Brian Rose point to a strong surge in knife crime since Khan was elected Mayor in June 2016.

londoncrime image2
Source: X/Facebook (archived here, here, and here)/Screenshot

These figures have likely been pulled from quantitative data of offenses recorded by police in London, which indeed show that crimes involving knives or sharp objects have increased by 54 percent in London since 2016. Around 14,000 knife crimes were recorded by police in a 12-month period ending in September 2023, according to numbers from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), compared to the 9,086 cases in the 12-month period ending in March 2016, before Khan first came into office. 

However, this dramatic surge isn’t unique to London. Looking at a regional level and national level, we can see that knife crime offenses have increased across the country since 2016, with only one region – the North West of England – reporting a downward trend. London’s "knife crime surge" of 54 percent since 2016 is broadly in line with that of England and Wales at large – 57 percent. 

Bringing this down to a city-by-city comparison, we can see that London has fared far better than the police areas of Leicestershire, Derbyshire, and Wiltshire – where yearly knife crimes have more than doubled since 2016. An analysis by The Guardian, which used NHS data instead of police data, showed that around 10.1 people for every 100,000 London residents were admitted to hospital after being assaulted with a knife or sharp object in 2022-2023. This is higher than in the rest of England, where there were 6.2 hospital admissions per 100,000 people in 2022-2023, but lower than the knife crime rates in Cleveland (12.9) and the West Midlands (13).

What’s more, this nationwide rise in recorded knife crime offenses doesn’t necessarily reflect a real increase in knife crime on the streets. A spokesperson for the ONS told Logically Facts that the increase is partly due to improvements to police recording practices, and cautioned against viewing crime offense data in isolation.

"It is useful to triangulate these data with hospital admissions data for assault with knives or sharp instruments. We publish these statistics at a national level – which shows admissions in the year ending March 2023 are at a similar level to the year ending March 2016," the spokesperson told Logically Facts.

Claim: Violent crime is up 30 percent in London

London1(Source: X, archived here/Screenshot)

The same nationwide trend can be seen in violent crime rates. The rate of violent offenses recorded by police per 1,000 population across different regions in England is up by 28 percent in London between 2016 and 2023 – broadly in line with what social media posts are arguing. 

However, this is a significantly smaller rise than in many other regions in England and Wales, where violent crime rates have more than doubled. The capital’s violent crime rate was the worst of all regions in the country in the 12-month period ending March 2016. In 2023, however, London had the second lowest rate of violent crime out of the larger regions in England and Wales. This relative improvement is also noticeable when zooming in on police jurisdictions – as of 2023, London ranks 31 in violent crime out of 42 police force areas in England and Wales, according to a fact-check by the U.K. Press Association.

Claim: London's murder rate is higher than New York's


(Source: X, archived here/Screenshot)

Search engine results for these keywords point to the same source: a 2018 article by USA Today announcing that London’s murder rate had surpassed New York City’s for the first time. The headline was picked up by several news outlets, including the BBC

However, this claim was based on murder rates from just two months, February and March 2018, during which time London had 37 killings, and New York City had 35. Looking at the full year, there were 134 murders in Greater London and 295 murders in New York. Seen in context to the population, New York’s murder rate per 100,000 people (3.42) was more than double that of London’s (1.52), according to a Bellingcat analysis.

Homicide offenses in London did rise for the first three years after Sadiq Khan took office – but after peaking at a ten-year-high of 153 in 2019, offenses have steadily dropped. In the year 2022-2023, there were 114 reported homicides in London, down 4.6 percent from the 12-month period before. This puts London’s murder rate at 12 for every 1 million people as of 2023, according to The Guardian – significantly lower than New York’s murder rate of 46 per 1 million people.

An ONS spokesperson told Logically Facts that homicide in London in the year ending March 2013 is at a similar level to the year ending March 2016 – meaning that Khan’s leadership has not brought an increase in murder rates.

The broader picture

Overall crime rate, too, has increased at a lower rate in London than in other areas of the country between March 2016 and September 2023. In London, the total recorded crime rate – which excludes fraud – has increased by around 18 percent since Sadiq Khan took office. Across England and Wales, it increased by 35 percent. 

Additionally, the claim that people are more exposed to crime in London than elsewhere in the country contradicts the findings of the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) as 14.9 percent of Londoners said they experienced a crime to their person or their household in a 12-month period ending September 2023, versus 15.7 percent nationally.

An ONS spokesperson told Logically Facts that the best measure of trends in overall crime is from the CSEW headline crime – not the data of recorded offenses that’s been used in the above claims. 

"Our data shows that the prevalence of CSEW headline crime (excluding fraud and computer misuse) in London fell from 18.9 percent in the year ending March 2016 to 11.8 percent in the year ending March 2023," an ONS spokesperson told Logically Facts.

In short

Knife crime, violent crime, and overall crime rates have gone up in London since 2016 if you look at recorded offenses by police authorities. However, this is unlikely to be the fault of Khan’s mayorship as the trend can be seen throughout the country. 

Additionally, when triangulating with other data points such as hospital admissions, or creating estimates based on qualitative interviews, experts at ONS have found that knife crime, homicide rates, and overall crime prevalence in London have not increased since Sadiq Khan became Mayor.

Would you like to submit a claim to fact-check or contact our editorial team?

Global Fact-Checks Completed

We rely on information to make meaningful decisions that affect our lives, but the nature of the internet means that misinformation reaches more people faster than ever before