Last month’s crime statistics revealed the true extent of the Government’s failure on crime. Overall police-recorded crime rose to 5.2 million offences in 2018, up from 4.8 million in 2017.
Never since records began have recorded incidents of violent crime been as high as they are today and yet police numbers stand at their lowest level for three decades. Per population, police numbers are at their lowest level ever.
This fall in officer numbers inevitably forces the police to refocus their resources on reactive policing. Neighbourhood policing, which encourages local communities to provide intelligence, report crime and work with the police proactively, is just not possible when officers are overstretched.
At the same time, nine years of austerity have undermined the support services that help to prevent crime. There is a clear link between the spike in youth-related violence in recent years and the decimation of the public sector.
Since 2012, the Government has cut £437m from Sure Start funding, while schools, crushed under the weight of punitive funding pressures, have cut teaching assistants and support for children with special educational needs. Cuts also mean that families are being denied intensive therapies that improve parenting skills, strengthen family cohesion, and reduce reoffending.
Criminals are now exploiting the space where well-run and effective early intervention, prevention and diversion strategies once existed. The pursuit of young children by gangs is now a systematic and well-rehearsed business model, according to the Children’s Commissioner.
I have repeatedly called on the Government to adopt a well-resourced public health approach to crime, which requires a co-ordinated strategy led by the Prime Minister.
Yet, despite the evidence, we have never heard any Minister accept that cuts to support services, youth services, and police funding have led to a rise in violent crime. If they cannot accept their responsibility, how can we trust them to put things right?