The last Conservative government, under John Major and Michael Howard, cut frontline policing and we had a massive increase in crime.
Tony ‘tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime’ Blair invested heavily in both increasing the number of police and modernising the way it operated. The Labour government also introduced new laws to tackle anti-social behaviour. The result? Between 1997 and 2010, crime fell by more than 40%.
Six months ago, the government’s own advisers on policing - Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) - published its own assessment of the impact on policing, nationally and locally, of the coalition government’s policies. With a 20% (£2bn) cut in police budgets, it predicted that, nationally, a minimum of 15,000 police officers would be cut by 2015.
7000 frontline police officers have already been lost in the last 2 years. Despite this, David Cameron promised that police would be more visible and more accessible. However, the government’s own statistics show that ‘visibility’ has fallen by 5% over the last year.
As well as the cuts in policing, there are also huge cuts to come in ‘community safety’ – where local communities come together with their local councils, local police and other agencies to work together to cut crime. Bizarrely, the government is also weakening the tools for communities and the police to deal with anti-social behaviour.
The Home Secretary, Theresa May, is proposing to scrap Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) and replace them with a weaker alternative that doesn’t result in a criminal record if the person repeatedly breaches it. She is also proposing that no action should be taken – by the police or by councils – on a complaint about anti-social behaviour until there are 3 separate complaints, or complaints from 5 different households.
This is ridiculous. It’s little wonder that community groups and local police officers despair and describe the government as ‘out of touch’. ASBOs aren’t perfect, but they should be improved, not weakened. People should not have to wait until they have complained 3 times to get a response to an anti-social behaviour complaint – the response needs to be swift to nip it in the bud.
The government’s proposals aren’t just daft; they’re criminal.