Sadiq Khan blamed the cost of living crisis for the crimewave sweeping London as police faced a backlash over a recent spate of murders.
There have been six suspected murders in the capital in six days, including a fatal knife attack on Thomas O’Halloran, an 87-year-old who was riding a mobility scooter, in Greenford on Tuesday.
The attack has provoked anger at the Metropolitan Police, with residents of the west London suburb demanding to know “where all the police officers have gone”.
Mr Khan, the Mayor of London, has this week repeatedly sought to distance himself from the failure to contain the violence, blaming it on the heatwave and the cost of living crisis.
On Friday, he insisted London was still a safe city despite recent events.
“Before the summer holidays began, the police, myself and others were warning about what we’ve seen in previous summers – we have seen an increase in violent crime and the cost of living crisis exacerbates this,” he said.
“Why? Because one of the complex causes of crime is deprivation, poverty, lack of opportunities and so forth.
“That’s made worse by the cost of living crisis, and I’m afraid it’s no consolation to me, the police or all those bereaved families to see happening this summer what we feared, which is what we’ve seen in the last week.”
On Thursday, Mr Khan said the killings had come against a backdrop of “longer daylight hours, school holidays, a heatwave and so forth”.
On Friday, the Mayor suggested that one solution to the scourge of violent crime was “supporting communities and giving young people constructive things to do”.
He has faced criticism for failing to keep the capital safe, including from James Cleverly, the Education Secretary, who earlier this week told LBC: “I cannot express how angry I am about the situation in regard to violent crime in London. It looks like the current Mayor has been asleep at the wheel.”
At a meeting in Greenford hosted by Scotland Yard in the aftermath of Mr O’Halloran’s death, one woman said: “Every week there is a new report of someone being stabbed or a schoolchild nearly being abducted.
“We all keep an eye on our children, we all know who our neighbours are and we try to keep ourselves safe, but it is not always possible.”
Chief Superintendent Sean Wilson said the Met was trying to put more officers back on the street, but admitted it was a struggle because many new recruits “would rather be detectives”.
Among the concerns voiced by Greenford residents were a lack of police officers and the closure of police stations, which they said had led to a rise in open drug dealing and alcohol-related violence.
One woman shouted: “We are a community and we all know one another. I am sorry to ask, but where are all the police officers?”
Another said, to applause: “More and more we are hearing about the elderly being targeted. We hear about people being surrounded by groups who try to take money from them. Some fight back, others don’t.
“There are no police stations for us to go to – they are all closing.”