Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Have we reached the tipping point?

I’ve never been able to work out why the Conservatives proclaimed themselves as ‘the party of law and order’ as, under their watch, crime has always increased and they’ve consistently cut police numbers.

From 1997, crime fell by more than 40%. Both the crime statistics and the British Crime Survey – which each year asks thousands of people of their experience of crime, whether reported or not – agreed. It might have had something to do with the significant investment in additional police and PCSO numbers for neighbourhood policing.

Since 2010, the government has cut police numbers by more than 15,000. Despite claiming that frontline policing would be protected, more than 10,000 bobbies have been taken off the streets. South Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire have 748 fewer police officers, a more than 10% cut. Yet, because of the government’s massive transfer of resources from the poorer north to the wealthier south-east, Surrey has 56 more police officers.

Despite the constant assertions by Home Secretary Theresa May that crime is falling, the government’s own watchdog has said that their statistics can no longer be relied upon. Notwithstanding that, the latest crime figures already show disturbing signs that a generation of progress in some areas is being reversed.

We now see worrying increases in muggings and shoplifting across the country, whilst violence against the person has increased in 16 police forces and violence without injury has increased in 19 force areas in England and Wales. In addition, the statistics do not record areas of growing crime, eg shoplifting, now at a 9 year high according to the British Retail Consortium.

And crime is changing. Fraud has increased by 34%, but we know this is just the tip of the iceberg because much online crime goes unreported. Yet no serious action has been taken by this Government to tackle online fraud and scams.

The Stevens Inquiry has now warned that we are in danger of returning to a discredited model of reactive policing. Association of Chief Police Officers’ President, Sir Hugh Orde, has warned we may now be at the tipping point. I fear they are both correct.