Police visit violent criminals' homes to persuade them not to reoffend
13 May 2020, 13:35 | Updated: 13 May 2020, 15:06
Police are visiting 1,000 violent criminals in their homes - twice - to try to persuade them not to return to their bad old ways after the coronavirus lockdown.
They hope such persistent offenders may use renewed family interaction to reconsider their lifestyle.
The Metropolitan Police says a huge fall in crime in London since the pandemic has let officers concentrate on initiatives to head off a possible resurgence of violence as lockdown restrictions are eased.
Assistant Commissioner Nick Ephgrave said: "All of us in society are rethinking our lives and it's the same for criminals who we hope are appreciating the positives of family interaction.
"We are visiting each of them and offering them a chance to get involved in diversion activities.
"It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for them, but if they resist we will crack down hard. We are determined not to get back to where we were."
London has one of the country's highest levels of knife crime - it rose 7% last year which also saw a 10-year high in homicides in the capital.
Commissioner Cressida Dick said: "Violent crime is still our number one priority. We hope people are using the quiet time at home to think about the way they want to live their lives."
She said she could not predict violent crime would surge after lockdown, but "we do recognise it's more likely more people will be made homeless, there might be greater disparity in society, people will feel angry, but we stand ready to deal with it".
And she said there was evidence that street gang rivalry had not gone away just because gang members were locked down like everyone else.
The force has also identified 250 violent hotspots where high-visibility officers will patrol at random times to reassure communities their streets are safe.
Ms Dick echoed other English police chiefs in insisting that it was not her officers' job to enforce the government's two-metre social distancing advice.
"A police officer can only advise, ignoring social distancing is not unlawful. All of us have a responsibility to be sensible."
She said it was for others to monitor queues at supermarkets or train stations, it wasn't police responsibility.
Officers would still enforce large groups and gatherings which were still illegal.
New guidance to police specifically says the two-metre advice is not legally enforceable in England, but it is in Wales.
Police have also been told they cannot stop people using public transport or not wearing face masks in enclosed spaces.
Since lockdown the force has handed out 900 fixed penalty notices for breaches of the new coronavirus rules and 10 people have been jailed for COVID-19 related assaults, such as spitting or coughing, on officers.
Another 50 are awaiting trial.
(c) Sky News 2020: Police visit violent criminals' homes to persuade them not to reoffend