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Labour’s achievements on reducing crime are now under threat

Submitted by on 13 Oct 2010 – 09:48

By Alan Johnson MP, Shadow Secretary of State for the Home Department

Photo: catch21productions

In less than one hundred days the new Home Secretary has managed to jeopardise important measures that strengthen the police’s ability to cut crime and disorder. She is restricting their powers to use DNA to catch criminals and making it harder for communities to use CCTV. The end of Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) also appears to be on the cards, despite assessments by the National Audit Office demonstrating that they work. 65% of ASB desists after the first civil intervention. 93% desists after the third, and given the behaviour of some of the perpetrators it is no surprise that it can take more than one intervention from the police, local authorities and others to make real and lasting progress. But the fact is that real and lasting progress is made, as demonstrated by the Home Office’s own figures published on 15th July.
Even Domestic Violence Protection Orders have found themselves on the bonfire of police powers.  They were designed to instantly protect women and families under threat of violence and enjoyed cross-party support when they came before Parliament. The Home Affairs Select Committee recommended the orders as an “inexpensive” measure to protect victims of domestic abuse and said that similar schemes “have proved effective in other European countries”. The Home Secretary, who is also the Equalities Minister, should be backing, not scrapping, the scheme.
Putting an end to these powers is nothing more than ideological vandalism. Nowhere is ‘small state’ ethos more obvious than in the inevitable cuts to police numbers that are surely soon to come. A report by the Constabulary Inspectorate suggested that the police service could introduce some 12% of savings and efficiencies without cutting “front line” policing. This was around the figure I negotiated with the Treasury as a proposed saving earlier this year as part of a deal to make the police a protected area in the moves to halve the fiscal deficit over the next four years. In contrast, this government offers no such protection. So it is not a question of if we are going to lose police from our streets but how many and from where.
The low hanging fruit is PCSOs, popular with the public and essential to the concept of Neighbourhood Policing. Losing them will be disastrous. In 1997 we knew that to tackle crime and to build confidence in the police what we needed was an increase in numbers combined with a programme of getting officers into communities where they could be seen. We knew that this was the best way to improve police understanding of what was happening in our neighbourhoods and to break down barriers between the police service and the public. After thirteen years of expansion, the Tories are now repeat-offending by reviving the policy of cuts.
In its ideological fervour to peel back the state, and in their rush to dismantle all that Labour has done, this Government seems happy to allow potential victims to become actual victims. A reduction in its resources, fewer officers with restricted powers and the dogmatic imposition of elected commissioners replacing the hugely experienced Police Authorities, is a triple whammy for the police and a deeply disturbing development for the public.