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More police on the streets to tackle crime

Submitted by on 10 Nov 2010 – 12:26

By Gloria De Piero, Labour MP for Ashfield

Being selected as a parliamentary candidate six weeks before polling day meant that my campaign had to be focused on the doorstep.

Pounding the streets from morning to night, seven days a week, one issue came up on every third or fourth doorstep-serious concerns about police visibility and anti-social behaviour. It’s hardly a controversial statement to say that everyone has a basic right to feel safe in their homes and on their streets. So why did so many people in Ashfield feel unsafe in their communities and what could I do about it?

Responding to those worries in the last week of the campaign I pledged that if elected I would hold a ‘Crime Summit’ within my first 50 days. I felt I needed to bring together the police and other agencies responsible for community safety to listen to what people had been telling me on the doorstep-that this was a community that felt angry and let down. Yes, crime was falling in Nottinghamshire, but at a much slower rate in the north of the county than in the more affluent south.

MPs from Nottingham City were telling me that the police presence there was better and that was helping make their streets safer – so why weren’t we seeing the same in Ashfield?

One of the new Home Secretary’s first acts in power was to abolish the policing pledge, which set out clear minimum standards that the public could expect from the police, including a commitment to spend at least 80 per cent of their time on the beat. All 43 police forces in England and Wales, including mine in Nottinghamshire, had signed up to the policing pledge. When Theresa May scrapped it she said: “I know that some officers like the policing pledge. And some, I’m sure, like the comfort of knowing they have ticked boxes. But targets don’t fight crime; targets hinder the fight against crime…I couldn’t be any clearer about your mission. It isn’t a 30-point plan, it is to cut crime: no more and no less.”

The message that I was getting on the doorstep-the low public confidence-means that I can’t say with absolute conviction that the policing pledge was being met. But what the pledge did offer to me as the local MP and to angry residents was a promise. And when a community feels as let down as ours does, we could use that promise as a tool to ask why.

I held my crime summit in June with the local Chief Superintendent, and to say it was tense is an understatement. But there was light, as well as heat, at that meeting. It revealed just how passionate the people of Ashfield are about making our communities safer. There were different views on punishment, on the role of parenting and on education. But there was a clear consensus about the need to see more police on the streets. So I raised the very simple question in the House of Commons – How can we have confidence in police productivity when there is no tool to measure it against?

Theresa May suggests that that the only target she needs to set the police is that of cutting crime. With fewer police officers and more regulations on the use of CCTV (another measure that the crime summit was unanimously in favour of), Theresa May will have to be ‘clearer about her mission’ than a simple demand for less crime.

I have promised to hold another crime summit in January. Perhaps the Home Secretary would like to attend.