Wednesday, 4 July 2012

The Government should cut crime, not the police

This week, 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 government’s policies.
Nationally, a minimum of 15,000 officers will be cut by 2015 and, as there is still a £302m gap between those spending plans and the likely resources, the reduction is likely to be even bigger. The report says “it is not unreasonable to assume a large proportion of the savings to bridge this gap will come from further workforce reductions”.
Frontline policing will be hit hard this year, with 6,000 frontline officers being cut, including 5,500 from neighbourhoods, 999 response and traffic. 179 police stations (14%) and 264 front counters (22%) will be closed.
Locally, Derbyshire Police is cutting about 1 in 11, and South Yorkshire Police about 1 in 9 of its police officers over the next 3 years, and this is on top of the more than 10% cut in police officers made since 2010.
David Cameron said that frontline policing would not be hit by the huge cuts being made in police budgets, but his own advisers have told him that for every five police officers on the frontline in 2010, there will be just four by 2015.
Now, haven’t we been here before? 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, and introduced new laws to tackle anti-social behaviour. The result? Between 1997 and 2010, crime fell by more than 40%.
With Cameron’s big cuts in frontline policing, who is now going to bet against crime rising again?

Monday, 2 July 2012

Each statistic is a tragedy

Over the years, it has not been uncommon to read articles and letters in national and local newspapers railing against the criminalization of various road safety laws.

The authors have been almost unanimous in opposing legislation which required the wearing of seatbelts, a limit on drinking and driving, and banned the use of mobile phones. All have been characterised as an unnecessary assault on individual freedom, despite the overwhelming evidence that each of those laws has led to dramatic reductions in deaths and serious injuries on the roads.

In recent years, there has been a similar campaign against speed limits and, in particular, speed cameras. Now, I’m quite happy to have an informed debate about speed limits and their enforcement, so let’s deal with the facts.

The new Labour government in 1997 introduced some targets to cut road deaths and serious injuries:
  • A 40% cut in deaths and serious injuries
  • A 50% cut in child deaths and serious injuries
  • A 10% cut in minor injuries

By 2009, all those targets had been exceeded, including a 61% cut in child deaths and serious injuries and a 30% cut in minor injuries.

The incoming coalition government – opposed to targets and for what it saw as populist reasons – simply removed all targets, axed road safety grants, and removed all funding for speed cameras. We can now see the result.

Last year, deaths on the roads increased for the first time since 2003 and there were sharp increases in the numbers of pedestrians killed and cyclists seriously injured. The number of people killed or seriously injured rose to 25,023. Deaths among pedestrians rose by 12 per cent to 453, including a 27 per cent increase in the number of child pedestrians killed last year.

Of course, statistics are bland, But, each and every one of those is a tragedy. Just ask the families and the doctors and police officers who have to deliver the awful news.