GUN crime in London has risen sharply. There were 429 more offences than the year before - a rise of 14.1 per cent - according to the Metropolitan Police.
Yesterday, the Met Police commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson was forced to respond to two recent incidents - Nathan Allen was shot dead in New Cross and 16-year-old Nick Pearton was stabbed to death in a Sydenham park.
"Addressing these social problems is the key. These are jobs for the politicians at local level and the new government. I don't do social engineering, I'm a cop."
Thanks Sir Paul. Very reassuring before London’s greatest sports event in 50 years. Here in South Africa, where local Police Commissioner Bheki Cele is 23 days short of hosting the 2010 World Cup, it’s a different story.
Though the British press – and their international counterparts – have been quick to predict “a bloodbath” for fans in a Rainbow Nation still trying to right the wrongs of post-Apartheid, post-colonial South Africa, the feeling is a lot more positive.
General Cele told me as we talked in Durban’s magnificent new Moses Mabhida Stadium last week: “Everything is in place for a peaceful World Cup. We will do all we can to assure the safety of fans visiting South Africa. And I know all about your England football fans and what they are capable of.”
Cele is a big, tough-looking bloke. But he has a sparkle in his eye. That’s probably because his much-maligned nation offers statistics to back up his argument. As the red tops in London warn England’s WAGs to stay home and instil fear in every football fan, I can provide this from Johan Burger, senior researcher in the crime and justice programme at South Africa's Institute for Security Studies.
He told the BBC this week: "Contrary to what many people think, the murder rate, while still extremely high, is down by about 44% since 1995. That's a huge decrease.
“What is important to understand about our high crime rate is that we know from research that approximately 80% of our murders happen within a very specific social context, mostly between people that know one another."
Given that South Africa’s newspapers are unlikely to call for a boycott of London 2012 given the rise in violent crime, perhaps it’s time to give South Africa a break. Perhaps the British tabloids should give the 2010 World Cup a little positive push as the days tick down to the big kick-off on June 11.
They won’t of course. It doesn’t sell newspapers. But they should. I’ve been in South Africa for three weeks and yet to be greeted with anything less than a smile walking the streets of Johannesburg and Durban. I was the only white guy watching Amazulu play Sundowns in the big semi-final at the ABSA Stadium last Saturday. I didn’t even have a Vuvuzela to defend myself with.
But all I got was smiles. Everywhere I go, I fail to witness bloodbaths. I have hardly been mugged at all. The only crime stories are fourth-hand tales from embittered white folk of a certain age who long for the bad old days of Apartheid.
Let’s finish with this: “It is clear that the biggest concern here is safety and violence, and we are doing everything we can in this area to see a reduction." That quote comes from London’s police commissioner, not South Africa’s.