It is undoubtedly the case that crime fell significantly over the last decade. That fall followed the trend of increasing crime under the last Conservative government, which had made significant cuts to frontline policing and failed to tackle anti-social behaviour.
However, there is a real danger that the headline lower crime figures are masking another change in direction.
First, there is the cut in frontline policing. Nationally, there are already 11,500 fewer police officers than in 2010; 178 fewer in South Yorkshire, 252 fewer in Derbyshire and 282 fewer in Nottinghamshire. However, on the basis of the announcements already made, those forces still have significant cuts to make. For instance, South Yorkshire will be cutting another 239 frontline police officers by 2015.
Second, 30,000 fewer crimes – including more than 7000 violent crimes - have actually been solved since 2010. And, even when crimes have been solved, it is really worrying that some violent offenders are being let off without a criminal record.
Most people support community resolution and restorative justice for minor crimes. However, it is astonishing that, whereas just 2204 ‘violence against the person’ offences were dealt with in that way in 2008, that number had jumped to 33,673 in 2012. Last year, under pressure from Nick Clegg, more than 10,000 cases of serious violence didn’t even get to court. Further, not only is there no criminal record, but information about the crime or the criminal is not kept on the Police National Computer.
Thirdly, anyone who watches Crimewatch, or has followed the progress from detection to conviction of many serious cases – let alone thousands of minor ones – will have noticed the important role that CCTV has played. It is staggering that this coalition government is now spending £14m on increasing the red tape to make it harder to get CCTV and for the police and CPS to use CCTV and DNA evidence.
It’s getting more likely that the history books will write up Cameron and Clegg as the criminals’ friends.