Extra police officers have been drafted into Havering after knife crime shot up by almost 30% in a year. 

Metropolitan Police figures show Havering had the fastest-growing knife crime problem in east London, with offences rising at double the rate in neighbouring boroughs.  

The Met has hired extra officers in the worst-affected wards and is staging “co-ordinated, proactive, high visibility patrols” as part of a scheme dubbed Operation Yamhill. 

“Reducing violent crime is our top priority,” said Chief Inspector Chris Nixon. 

Havering Council, meanwhile, has threatened to shut down venues that attract trouble. 


In May, Stephen Gowers had two close brushes with knives in a few hours. 

First, near Harrow Lodge Park, he chased off a boy who was intimidating other youngsters and suggested he had a knife in his waistband. 

Then he came to the aid of a woman and her baby who were being harassed by a “gang of youths” with a “massive knife” 

“I’m shocked at what has been happening in Havering,” he said. 

Stephen founded Take A Knife, Save A Life after the 2019 murder of 17-year-old Jodie Chesney in Harold Hill. 

The group patrols parks and other areas to act as a visual deterrent, search for stashed weapons and offer support and advice to young people. 

In less than four years, said Stephen, it has discovered more than 250 knives and four guns hidden in public places. 

But after the pandemic some volunteers were unable to return to patrols for health reasons and with the cost-of-living crisis biting, others are having to work more and patrol less. 

“It’s heartbreaking, as someone that created a charity to make a difference, that things seem to be going downhill,” said Stephen. 

“I’m scared for everyone’s kids... I’m terrified for my son. There isn’t enough being done.” 

Romford Recorder: Take A Knife, Save A Life volunteers on patrol in HaveringTake A Knife, Save A Life volunteers on patrol in Havering (Image: Newsquest)

The Figures 

Between November 2021 and October 2022, police recorded 211 knife offences in Havering. 

Roughly a third (71) resulted in injuries. 

On one hand, that meant Havering had recorded fewer knife crimes than any other east London borough. 

Newham had 593, Tower Hamlets 483, Barking and Dagenham 372, Waltham Forest 313 and Redbridge 341. 

But when compared to the previous year, it showed a worrying trend. 

Knife crime in Havering was up 27.9%. 

While not yet back to pre-pandemic levels, that rise put Havering at the top of an east London league table for growth in knife crime. 

In second place was Newham which, with a 13.8% increase, was seeing growth at only half Havering’s rate.  

The Met 

The Met attributed Havering’s increase to “unusually low” figures the previous year, “largely due to Covid restrictions”. 

All London boroughs had Covid restrictions, yet none saw a similar explosion in knife crime to Havering’s after they were lifted. 

Waltham Forest, for instance, saw a 17.4% year-on-year reduction. 

This, the authorities believe, is because much of Havering’s knife crime is linked to its booming night-time economy, meaning venues reopening had a disproportionate impact compared to other boroughs. 

As Havering’s night-time economy is concentrated in Romford, the Met has allocated extra officers to its town centre team, alongside some other problem areas. 

Officers have also refined their use of stop-and-search in the area. 

The number of stop-and-searches in Havering was down compared to last year – but, police claimed, the number of illegal items discovered was up. 

Romford Recorder: Residents Association councillor Barry Mugglestone, Havering Council's lead member for crime, said the authority would crack down on venues which attracted troubleResidents Association councillor Barry Mugglestone, Havering Council's lead member for crime, said the authority would crack down on venues which attracted trouble (Image: Havering Council)

The Council 

“It’s totally unacceptable,” Cllr Barry Mugglestone, Havering Council’s lead member for crime, said of the latest knife crime data. 

He said he would “put pressure on the police”, but that the council would also take action. 

Cllr Mugglestone said he was particularly disturbed by night-time stabbings in recent months outside bars. 

“If premises can’t run a decent venue, we will have to close them down,” he warned.  

“I know it’s not all their responsibility, but it’s about stakeholders working together. Businesses don’t want knife crime either because it will drive away trade. 

“I want people to feel safe coming to Romford. I want young people to come here, have a good time, go home and wake up happy. Not wake up in a hospital bed.” 

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