Bobbies off their beat … half of Met police live outside London

And most of those who do live in the city are resident in outer boroughs.

It has raised concerns about the low number of police living among the communities they serve in inner-city areas.

Karen Buck, the Labour MP for Westminster North who raised the issue, said she knew of one officer who commuted from the Isle of Wight.

Of 33,105 Met officers, 16,766 (50.6 per cent) live in a London borough and 16,339 live elsewhere.

The most popular boroughs for police include Kingston, where 1,814 officers live, Bexley, (1,754), Bromley (1,303) and Croydon (1,118).

But only 64 live in Westminster, 41 in Islington, 24 in Southwark and 15 in Kensington and Chelsea.

The figures emerged in a answer to a question to Mayor Boris Johnson by Labour London Assembly member Murad Qureshi and Ms Buck.

An exodus is thought to have started in the early part of the decade when the Government introduced free rail travel for officers within 70 miles of the capital. The move followed complaints that police could not afford housing costs in London.

Ms Buck said: "We need to keep a balance between a desire to reward officers and a desire to encourage people to live in or near communities they serve. I am not sure we have the balance right now."

Details of where the officers live outside London were not revealed in the Mayor’s reply. But Ms Buck said she knew of one who came from the Isle of Wight, and anecdotal cases of others travelling from counties such as Wiltshire and Berkshire.

In his response, Mr Johnson said: "The important point for community safety is where police officers are deployed, not where they sleep."

Policing expert Tony Travers, of the London School of Economics, said: "There are clear consequences. Off-duty police are much more likely to be on the street in outer boroughs or Kent and Hertfordshire than in Camden or Kensington. That must have an impact on the likelihood of crime being stopped at an early stage."

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