Tories are failing the public on policing and crime
21 Jul 2017The central claim of this government is that it has protected the police and police budget, but in reality it has an abysmal record on policing and crime. Simultaneously, in the 12 months to March this year, we have seen both the biggest rise in recorded crime in a decade and the lowest number of police officers on record.
The longer-term record is even more stark. Between 2010 and 2017 total police recorded crime has effectively increased by one million to 4.5 million. The biggest rises are in violent crime and sexual offences which have both effectively doubled over the period. These are among the crimes that rightly most concern the public.
Of course, the government tries to hide behind the separate crime survey. This paints a different picture, with overall crime falling. But this is true only if the relatively new category of soaring cyber-crime is excluded altogether.
The government claims that the soaring level of police recorded crime is solely due to better reporting and recording of crime. But this is contradicted by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which warns that, “While ongoing improvements to recording practices are driving this volume rise, we believe actual increases in crime are also a factor in a number of categories.” These categories include omicide, knife crime and other ‘high-impact’ crimes.
Along with Jeremy Corbyn, I recently met with representatives of the Police Federation. They were very clear that police forces are over-stretched by both the volume of crime and its changing nature. They lack the resources to do the job effectively.
The most important resource of all is people. The Tory ‘protection’ of the police is to continually cut staffing levels. Police numbers were cut again by over 900 in the latest 12 months and are now at a low since modern records began, despite a rising population and the increase in crime.
Cuts are not cost-free and one of the most striking effects is the plummeting rate of summonses or charges issued to identified suspects. In 2013 more than one in six suspects was charged or summonsed. In a just a few years it has fallen to one in nine. The police are simply over-stretched.
We are told there is no magic money-tree. Perhaps the police should change their name to Desperately nderfunded Police, or DUP to get the money that’s needed.
Labour has pledged to restore 10,000 police officers and their role will be to increase community policing. The public wants to know that crime prevention, a police presence on the streets and rebuilding the links with all our communities will be the priority. This will begin to reverse the vicious circle of falling police numbers, plummeting detection rates and a rise in some serious crimes.
The Tories have let the public down. Labour will boost the police and protect the public better.
* Originally published in The Times.