Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Tough on crime – not this lot

Vandalism, dangerous dogs and nuisance neighbours make families’ lives a misery. People want to know that if they are a victim of crime - or if they are being regularly harassed by yobs on their street - then the police will have the power and capability to restore peace as quickly and efficiently as possible. That’s why I strongly supported the measures – new laws, new penalties, additional resources – that Tony Blair’s government committed to the fight against crime and anti-social behaviour and, as a result, it fell considerably.
But, as I’ve argued before, I’m worried the clock is now being turned back. I make no apology for returning to the issue because it is so important. On top of big cuts to neighbourhood police, the Cameron/Clegg coalition wants to weaken police powers to fight anti-social behaviour. I’m clear that they need to rethink these policies, as we need stronger action against crime instead of their weak approach.
Home Secretary Theresa May plans to water down Asbos so that someone who keeps ignoring police warnings, court orders and injunctions to stop terrorising the local estate will no longer be guilty of a crime. Instead, she plans to introduce the Community Trigger – and, no, it isn’t one attached to a shotgun! - which gives people the right to demand that police deal with anti-social behaviour, meaning forces would have to investigate any incident reported by at least five people or any three complaints by the same person. The reality is that victims who complain three times will only have the right to a review, and this is just the minimum requirement with the authorities able to wait much longer before taking further action if they choose to.
What this will mean in practice has been discovered in the Government’s own pilot schemes in Manchester, Brighton and Richmond. These show that of 44,011 antisocial behaviour incidents, the Community Trigger was only successfully activated 13 times.
The Government’s plans are also weak on support for victims of repeated harassment. There are too many loopholes to let offenders off if police resources are tight. And, all this is to happen when the Government is cutting thousands of frontline police officers.

This all goes to show that this Government simply doesn’t understand the strains and pressures some of our communities are facing. Even more worrying is that it doesn’t appear to be listening to the concerns those communities, and their elected representatives, are expressing.