Police chiefs have condemned Boris Johnson’s latest high-profile strategy to tackle crime as “weird and gimmicky”, while plans to increase stop-and-search were criticised for ignoring the evidence.
Instead of showing that the Tories were on top of the crime agenda their thoughts were seen to shallow, off the mark and uninspiring according to Lib Dem spokespersons and that was mild compared to what the Police, at all levels, said about the fumbled attempts by Johnson and Patel to get a dog whistle response to their daft ideas.
Crime rates will only be reduced and people feel safe in their own homes if policing issues are decided by listening to the evidence understanding the causes of crime and then coming up with rational policies based on the evidence. Bungling Boris and Pathetic Patel are incapable of such thought processes.
The Government has failed to deal with poverty; failed to understand the complexity of drugs and alcohol issues; failed to protect women from violence generally and domestic abuse specifically; have allowed our roads to become race tracks; have reduced money for rehabilitation and schemes to get ex-offenders into decent homes and jobs, made huge cuts in the number of crown and magistrates courts which has made court activity remote and expensive to participate in as a witness.. I could go on. All these things increase crime rates
Among the proposals in the so-called strategy are:
- Permanently relaxing conditions on the use of section 60 stop-and-search powers for police to tackle knife crime.
- Expanding the use of electronic monitoring for thieves upon release from prison.
- Trialling the use of alcohol tags – which detect alcohol in the sweat of offenders guilty of drink-fuelled crime – on prison leavers in Wales.
- Making unpaid work “more visible” by getting offenders to clean streets and open spaces in hi-vis tabards or uniforms.
Police chiefs privately mocked parts of the government plans, launched without consulting Chief Constables, Police Commissioners or frontline officers and their organisations.
One chief constable condemned a plan for league tables measuring how quickly forces answer emergency and non-emergency calls: “So forces can answer the phone, say ‘hello’, and put it down again. It needs to be about the quality of what you do.” Another chief constable said: “It’s a really old-fashioned assumption that picking up the phone is an indicator of effectiveness. It is about what you do after you answer the call. Some mental health calls take two hours.”
Another Chief Constable replied when asked if the measures would cut crime, said: “No, but it will waste some officers’ time. It does not address the big issues.”
Significantly the ‘so-called’ strategy fails to pick up the racial issues which have been identified in the past five years about the racial aspects of policing. Andy George, president of the National Black Police Association, said: “There is no evidence for the PM’s claims about the effectiveness of stop-and-search, but there is a lot of evidence it is discriminatory, unfair and does not prevent the long-term scourge of violent crime.
If we really want to tackle crime these are the things that should be done in the short-term:
- Re-open closed courts to bring justice closer to the people. This would help people as both jurors and witnesses and reduce much of the time wastage endemic in the system.
- Provide effective support for those leaving the justice system to find decent jobs and accommodation.
- Radically overhaul the ‘stop and search’ legislation which appears to have an inbuilt prejudice against people from BAME communities.
- Provide proper and useful training in skills and knowledge-based activities in prisons instead of 23-hour lockdowns.
- Get more police officers out into the community both in terms of community policing and also being out on our roads dealing with increased lawlessness amongst a small minority of motorists.
In the long term we need to:
- Reform our drugs laws which account for approximately 50% of all crimes and an especially high level of crimes of violence and murder.
- Reform our alcohol and licensing laws to stop binge drinking and the appalling behaviour which too often takes our Police into front line positions of danger.
- Provide support for troubled families whose young people often see crime as the only way of advancement out of difficult family and community circumstances.
- Work with schools to encourage non-sexist stereotyping by young men of women.
Al these things cost money in the short term. But Lib Dems see the expenditure as an investment not an expenditure. As with health a penny’s worth of prevention is worth a £1s worth of cure.
There are far more sad people than bad people in our justice system. Unless we understand the root causes of crime, or as Tony Blair put it, ‘being tough on crime and the causes of crime’, our streets will become ever less safe and our Police men and women put in ever more danger. Johnson and Patel’s knee jerk dog whistle rubbish, which has so rightly been derided by Police, justice people and the public alike will only make things worse.