The 100 most dangerous men in London
With its record protecting women under scrutiny, the Met Police comes up with a new tool
Morning — watchlists are something normally used by counter-terrorism units, but in the past month there’s been a new application in London: to stop violence against women and girls. The Met Police has drawn up a list of the 100 most dangerous men in the city using crime data — and the Spy’s found out how it’s already been put to use. That’s after your briefing below.
Plus: the battle of Oxford Street, graffitied Chinese propaganda, and a map of UFO sightings.
A quick note: summer is here and the Spy has weddings and holidays in the diary, so we’re tweaking our publishing schedule in August. This month we’ll just be sending out one bumper email each week on Friday, like today. We’ll be back with your two weekly issues at some point in September.
P.S: Thanks all for the positive response to our last note on the future of the Spy — we’ve still got to reply to some of your kind words. And extra thanks to our new pledges. You can support the Spy too by pledging a subscription using the button below.
What we’ve spied
📱 Surreal scenes on Oxford Street on Wednesday after viral videos on TikTok and Snapchat encouraged teenagers to rob JD Sports en masse. The videos had specified that the “Oxford Circus JD robbery” would take place at 3pm and called on people to turn up in a “dress code” of balaclavas and gloves. Police had enough warning to prepare a heavy presence, sending vans and mounted patrols, but things still ended up chaotic. Footage from the scene shows police wielding batons clashing with dozens of youths outside the Microsoft store, with one young man being pinned up against a police car. As officers on horseback struggled to maintain order, shoppers elsewhere on the street were being locked inside stores. All in all, five people were arrested and police issued 24 dispersal orders — but now the home secretary is out for blood. Suella Braverman has called for the culprits to be “hunted down and locked up” and she appeared to equate the incident with another social media gathering gone wrong in New York last week. Also chipping in is an M&S executive, who says the debacle reflects Oxford Street’s demise as a flagship shopping destination. Worth noting though that M&S is likely a bit salty at the moment given it was recently refused permission to demolish and rebuild its main Oxford Street store. Others suggest such chaos is inevitable without proper services for young people.
🚗 Just as the ULEZ debate seemed to be calming down, a man has gone on hunger strike to protest the imminent expansion of London’s air pollution rules. Prabhdeep Singh, a taxi driver who previously worked in the British Army’s dental corp, has set up camp outside Uxbridge station with a banner reading: “One week hunger strike … let’s fight for the survival of common people”. Speaking from inside his tent on Tuesday, he said: “It is day two. I’m feeling ok. I’m surviving. When you are morally right, hunger doesn’t bother you. I’m fighting for the cause”. Singh appears unconvinced by Sadiq Khan’s recent overture to ULEZ opponents of an expanded scrappage scheme, which will let drivers of all incomes — not just those on benefits, as originally planned — apply for a £2,000 grant to help replace their uncompliant cars. It really isn’t long till the ultra-low emissions zone comes into force across all of Greater London on Tuesday, August 29. But in perhaps a further sign that opponents won’t be going quietly into the night, a video of a man using a drill to pull down one of the ULEZ enforcement cameras has gone viral.
🎨 Backlash in Brick Lane this week when one of the street’s graffiti walls was completely painted over in white and then covered with propaganda slogans for the Chinese Communist Party. The slogans were written in red block characters, a style which is apparently a common sight across China on posters and billboards. Behind the stunt appears to be a group of Chinese art students who openly posted about their process on social media, including one student called YI Que who included a caption about the meaning of freedom in the West with his photos of the slogans. Soon after they appeared, the students were flooded with criticism on social media, with activists describing the move as “disgraceful” and “Orwellian doublespeak propaganda”. Meanwhile, the wall started becoming overlaid with references to the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, and phrases like “Free Taiwan”, “Free Tibet” and “Free Uyghurs”, before ultimately being whitewashed again by Tower Hamlets council. In a statement on Instagram, YI Que said that the situation has “escalated beyond my imagination” and that he and his parents were receiving death threats online. It’s all rather overshadowed another guerilla art project detected across London this week — fake council posters have been put up marking out 'crack and heroin zones' where addicts can 'legally get high'.
🗳️ Oh, you tease — former Labour leader and possibly former Islington MP Jeremy Corbyn has said he’ll 'have a think' about running for London mayor. Asked at the Edinburgh Fringe at the weekend if he would consider standing in the election next year, Corbyn replied: "Well let's have a think about it, shall we? I want to see change in our society. I'm not disappearing, I'm not going away. I look at my diary and I'm more active than I have ever been at any other time in my life”. There have already been rumours Corbyn’s planning a run, prompted by Keir Starmer’s efforts to block him from standing to be a Labour MP in Islington at the next general election, but this is the first hint from the man himself. The prospect of him running and splitting the capital’s Labour vote might cheer up Conservative candidate Susan Hall — her party has announced a review into its London operations following concerns over its mayoral selection process. Some early favourites like Paul Scully never made the shortlist and one man who did, Daniel Korski, had to drop out of the race due to groping allegations, leaving just Hall to trounce another unknown contender, Moz Hossain.
💰 Some soul-searching for Hackney this week thanks to a feature piece asking if it’s become ‘the new Clapham’. “The vibe shift is definitely coming,” writes Alexandra Jones in the Evening Standard, pointing to its newfound popularity with City and tech workers, the proliferation of joggers around Hackney Marshes and even the meme account real_housewives_of_clapton. To be fair, one of the crazier facts Jones mentions is that, as the UK’s housing market tanks, Hackney is one of a handful of boroughs where house sales are now up on pre-pandemic levels, putting it in the same basket as Islington, Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster. Some of the new arrivals seem to be embracing Hackney’s arty roots, such as the TikToker who’s started posting about her apparently idyllic warehouse commune. The borough’s longer-term residents have something to celebrate at least — a Hackney gardener has finally grown a banana ten years after buying a plant from Columbia Flower Market.
🏚️ Much less idyllic news down south in Croydon, where the council has been slapped on the wrist for failing to repair a man’s rat-infested home. The man was forced to sleep in his car for more than a year due to the rodents, the local government ombudsman found, with Croydon council failing to address his complaints. Elsewhere in housing — another big skyscraper project is in the works, this time in Southwark. Developers Hines wants to create a triplet of skyscrapers on a mostly empty site on Blackfriars Road, one of which will be a 45-storey office tower and the rest for 433 homes.
🚇 Still no sign tube use is back to normal, with new stats from TfL showing passenger numbers are at 85% of pre-Covid levels. Big events this summer have helped push things closer to normality, but that’s mostly been at weekends, with some city centre stations back to where they were in 2019 on Saturdays and Sundays. In other transport news: Lime has called for 10,000 e-bike parking bays across London, as councils continue to get inundated with complaints about blocked pavements. Meanwhile, someone’s started a petition to reopen the disused railway between Finsbury Park and Alexandra Palace.
🎭 A few culture bits for you:
So long as the aforementioned chaos hasn’t put them off, a new major modern art gallery is planned for Oxford Street. Moco Museum is submitting plans to take over a 1920s building opposite Marble Arch to display the likes of Banksy, Damien Hirst and Andy Warhol.
Hype is building for the opening of Drumsheds, the latest venture from the creators of the popular Printworks nightclub that’s seeing them refurbish the former Ikea mega store in Tottenham. Tickets are now on sale for the first music acts in October.
Sotheby’s has opened a huge exhibition on Bond Street devoted to Freddie Mercury ahead of the former Queen star’s possessions going up for auction. One particular highlight is his home furnishings for his cats.
If you happen to have a Times subscription, the paper’s put out a nice list of free public art installations to see this summer, with many London spots featured. They include the Albert Memorial in Kensington Gardens, Henry Moore’s reclining figures near Brandon Estate in Southwark, Eduardo Paolozzi’s mosaics at Tottenham Court Road station and Tracey Emin’s Bronze Doors at the National Portrait Gallery.
👽 Finally: the Spy was very disappointed with MyLondon’s map of UFO sightings in the city published last week. The map is actually just one of the whole of the UK, and interactivity is quite shonky to use, with an annoying pop-up. So we think we’ve got a new mapping project of our own to add to our list…
To rank a predator
Today 38-year-old Jerad Thomas is due in court in west London, having been charged with multiple counts of assault, intentional strangulation and attempted robbery. It’s a grim though not unusual set of alleged crimes to come before judges at Isleworth crown court. But there’s something distinctively new about Thomas’s case — the Spy can reveal he is the first person in London to be arrested after appearing on a new watchlist of the city’s 100 most dangerous men.
Since July, the Met Police has been turning to data to focus its efforts on combating violence against women and girls. With the help of its new chief scientific officer, professor Lawrence Sherman, the force has created what it calls “a stack of the top 100 offenders” — a ranking of men who pose the highest risk to Londoners, though particularly women. The list initially started with 36,000 names, gathered from a year’s worth of police reports made up to June of this year. Their crimes ranged from stalking and coercive control to domestic abuse, rape and murder. A few “precision policing” data techniques later and the 36,000 were boiled down to the 100 most dangerous. Officers now use the list to focus investigations, through surveillance or revisiting victims and witnesses to explain the importance of giving statements. They got their first scalp in the first month, with the arrest of Thomas. It’s a novel approach that, as the force itself acknowledges, is more typical of the tactics deployed by counter-terrorism units.
Powering it is Sherman’s brainchild — the Cambridge Crime Harm Index. There’s a lot of sophisticated statistics involved in the index, but in short, it’s a way to prioritise crime based on harm. Rather than just counting up the crimes of offenders, it assigns a score to the most serious, so they end up ranked more highly. It’s a technique used internationally — in Denmark, Sweden, Australia — and the index’s uses can be wide-ranging. Academics have published papers using the index topics ranging on police chases to gang hotspots.
There’s an obvious explanation for the Met’s specific use of the index now though: increased scrutiny of its record protecting women. It’s been four months since the publication of the Casey Review, the huge report into the Met that found it to be not only institutionally racist and homophobic but sexist. Baroness Casey found the force was not taking violence against women and girls “seriously”, despite violent and sexual offences growing from 17% of all crimes in London in 2012-13 to 31% in 2022-23. In her view, the force’s investigators lacked specialist knowledge and faced overwhelming caseloads, to the detriment of victims and charge rates. One source within the force told her: “If you look at our performance around rape, serious sexual offences, the detection rate is so low you may as well say it’s legal in London”. Surveys conducted for the Casey Review also found half of women in London now lack confidence in the Met to keep women and girls safe.
The top 100 list appears to be a direct response to Casey’s damning findings, and the force has said it plans to build on the techniques developed to identify specific predatory crime hotspots in London. There is one thing conspicuously absent from the list so far though — the rogue cops that prompted the Casey Review in the first place. Sherman has said the likes of Wayne Couzens, murderer of Sarah Everard, and serial rapist David Carrick would have been unlikely to appear in the list, given the time frame and types of crime that feed into the rankings.
For now, the above is effectively all that’s publicly known about the top 100 list. Speaking to the Spy, professor Mike Hough, founder of the Institute for Criminal Policy Research, said there aren’t yet precise details on how the list is created, its effectiveness and the risks attached to its use. But he thinks it could work.
“It sounds promising, both in terms of likely impact on the persistent offenders who are identified and in the declaratory effect of recognising that those committing VAWG are involved in serious criminality,” said Hough.
“As with any targeting of particular groups for intensive policing, there are obviously risks in wrongly classifying people as dangerous, and in doing so in ways that lack transparency. The Met’s experience in identifying “gang nominals” is a case in point.”
Hough is alluding to the Met’s previous foray into ranking criminals — the gang violence matrix. Set up in response to the 2011 riots, the Met has used it to identify people it suspects of being in gangs, based on past offences and police intelligence. It’s been repeatedly criticised by human rights organisations though as leading to over-policing of young and Black Londoners. Whether the top 100 list poses its own over-policing risks remains to be seen. The Spy has now sent a Freedom of Information request to the Met, asking for more data on the list and the total arrests made so far. We’ll keep you updated.
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