|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
It is always a difficult issue, but I support Millwall, not West Ham, and am proud to do so. We nearly got into the play-offs, but not quite. We will be on our way up again soon, and the FA cup final will come round again, and I hope that next time we will win it. At the other end of the spectrum, on my constituency boundary, I have the Ministry of Sound, which was the target of the prospective attack discussed in the Crevice trial the other day.
We have never come to a happy accommodation about how to negotiate the extra policing that the private sector needs for its events. There is a certain public duty to make sure that people going to football, rugby or tennis events get looked after. An additional responsibility might have to be borne, however, by the person putting on the event and making money out of it. I am keen that the position should not be as unclear as it is now. Responsible businesses are always willing to pay their contribution, but we must make sure that that is also shared as a public responsibility. Sport, events, clubs, bars and social life are as important a part of Londons success as its commerce.
I thank the three police services and, through the Home Office, encourage them to develop their good initiatives. As everybody has said, however, there should be no complacency. There is far too much crime, and not nearly enough detection; we have a long way to go.
Justine Greening (Putney) (Con): I am delighted to have the opportunity to contribute to the debate on an issue that is often uppermost in the minds of my constituents and is one of my top priorities as an MP.
There is a great deal of concern about crime in my part of Wandsworth, which is Putney, Roehampton and Southfields. I have been out on the beat with my local police, as, I am sure, other Members have. Last week, I met police at both the police station in Putneywhich was open when I went thereand a new base, which is welcomed by police, in the Roehampton area on the Alton estate. There were some problems with its opening, but it is finally now open, and I hope that there will be a much quicker response to crime on that estate as a result of officers being on site.
I want to discuss the statistics briefly before making my main points. It is not playing politics to point out the limitations of the statistics. It is incumbent on all of us to recognise and take steps to address that if we are to have good information on policing and crime on which informed decisions can be taken, both in this place and by local borough commanders at the grass roots.
The briefing sent out by the commissioner was a classic case: what appeared to be a clear-cut story of crime falling across London was highly challengeable in a number of areas, and could be interpreted to give exactly the opposite impression when combined with other figures. The front page stated, Crime continues to fall, and then underneath in bracketsprobably in font size 4were the total notifiable offences. Three years of figures were provided. In 2004-05, just over 1 million offences were notified. In 2005-06, 984,000 offences were notified. Last year, 921,000 offences were notified.
This bulletin brings together statistics from the British crime survey and crimes recorded by the police to provide a comprehensive account of the latest patterns and trends in the main high volume crimes.
Therefore, it does precisely what we need in bringing together recording and the British crime survey. Page 57 of the document clearly shows, if we compare it with the previous years document, that the overall recording of crime, which is reflected in the British crime survey, seems to have gone down from 32 to 30 per cent., which is almost a 10 per cent. fall. If we applied that to the figures that I read out for 2004-05 and 2005-06the years to which the 32 per cent. and 30 per cent. figures referwe would expect to see a fall in crime, because we would expect to see the underlying level of crime less reported in last years statistics than in those of the year before. Had the drop from 32 per cent. to 30 per cent. been reflected in the figures, we should have seen crime in London falling not from 1,015,000 offences in 2004-05 to 984,000 in 2005-06which the commissioner says represents a successbut to 951,675. That suggests to me that during those two periods the amount of underlying crime in London has increased. We do not have the statistical bulletin for 2006-07, which would help us to understand what last years figures mean. It will probably not be published until July 2007.
I was told earlier that I was picking holes in the statistics. I recall that when crime as recorded by the police rose during the first few years of the Labour Government, the Governments main explanation was that people were reporting more crime. It seems that the same logic does not apply when crime is falling. I do not criticise the Metropolitan police, but I do wonder whether we have a clear picture of what is happening in the city when such a small amount of crime makes it into the figures recorded by the police. The bulletin, which refers to the whole country, suggests that just 30 per cent. of crime is recorded, but I think the position may be much worse, particularly in London. We know that in London crime is committed disproportionately more against young people, particularly secondary school children aged between 11 and 16. I myself know from a freedom of information request that I issued last year that the victims of a third of muggings in London during that year were secondary school children, and also that nearly 49 people suspected of carrying out muggings were themselves aged between 11 and 16.
Younger children are far less likely to report crime, for all sorts of understandable reasons. They are often concerned about what will happen to them. They are scared of becoming involved in a legal process that they do not really understand, which could lead to their appearing in court and having to give evidence. For many teenagers that is an understandably scary prospect. Bulletins of this kind should really carry a health warning. Perhaps we should agree that when we discuss crime statistics in future, we should make clear what the recorded statistics are and what is the level of recording, so that we can better understand whether or not we are seeing an holistic picture.
I know that detection rates in London have risen, and that is welcome. Of course a sceptic might say that, because a little less crime is being recorded, the crime that is making it into the figures may have a more compelling evidence base, and that is why people are going to the police. However, we need to be clear about the overall level of crime in London that may be being addressed. We know that about 21 per cent. of muggings make it into recorded police figures. We also know that the police will detect those responsible for around 13 to 14 per cent. of the muggings that they record. When the two figures are put together, it suggests that across London perhaps 2 to 3 per cent. of suspects are ever detected. The total crime figures reveal a similar pattern. If across London about 30 per cent. of crime is recorded and there is an overall detection rate of 21 per cent., that suggests that perhaps only 5 or 6 per cent. of the total crime that is being committed is ever addressed by the policepartly because they are not able to address all crime. I know how hard my local police work in tackling crime, so I do not think that such figures have anything to do with lack of effort by the police.
I raise those points because we have discussed why there is a massive gap between what the public think and what the statistics show. I suggest that the argument I have just outlined goes a long way towards explaining why there is a huge chasm between what people think about crime and the evidence of the crime statistics. It might well be the case that the public do not want to hear discussion in this House about reassurance policing and whether we should try not to concern people unnecessarily about crime, but that what they want to hear is a sensible debate about the fact that far too much crime goes unaddressed, and also that crime is endemic in certain areas.
In large tracts of the country and many of our constituencies there is not a substantial amount of crime, but I am concerned about the areas where there is a lot of crime, and I am also concerned that in some areas crime is endemic. If it is being tackled to the extent that I have outlined in terms of actual crime and detection rates, it is not at all surprising that people are so concerned.
A clear trend has emerged over the past decade, which is revealed in the figures. Crime has moved out of the home and on to the street. That is understandable because the economics of burglary have fundamentally changed. It is a lot harder to get into peoples houses. Home Office statistics on security measures show that there have been dramatic rises in the proportion of people with burglar alarmsthat has risen by 50 per cent.and with deadlocks. The proportion of people with window locks has risen from 68 per cent. in 1996 to 85 per cent. The proportion of people with light timers and sensors has risen from 39 per cent. in 1996 to 52 per cent. People are taking responsibility for making sure that their property is safe, which we all welcome. People are taking responsibility for making sure that their cars are safe. It is difficult to find a model of car that is currently in production that is manufactured without an immobiliser. Therefore, the supply of burglary opportunities is lower than in the past.
There has also been decline on the demand side. The prices of brand-new electronic goods at outlets such as Currys and Dixons have fallen. People can now buy a brand-new television for well under £100. Therefore, there is no second-hand market in stolen goods in the same way as there was 10 or 20 years ago. What would a criminal prefer to dotake a plasma TV out of a house in my constituency and try to lug it down the street unnoticed, or spend the afternoon on Putney high street stealing peoples mobile telephones, a considerable number of which they could store on their body before that was noticed?
Crime opportunities in the home have reduced, and therefore crime has moved out on to the street. There has been an increase in youth-on-youth crime because on our streets it is young people who have the richest pickings on them. Unfortunately, because of this trend they are on the front line of crime, especially in our city.
One of the key questions that we must ask is whether that was predictable. There was a long period of time when we were taking officers away from neighbourhood policing duties. Now, there is a trend to return them to such duties, which is welcome. It started too late, but I am very thankful that it did finally start.
I want briefly to discuss the role of gangs in youth-on-youth crime. [Interruption.] The Minister shakes his head, but I would welcome his visiting my constituents who live on the Alton estate, because they feel very strongly about this subject. There is no doubt that the safer neighbourhoods initiative is working throughout much of London. It is not a new concept; rather, it is the concept of beat policing re-branded. As we know, beat policing worked for many years. Only in recent times has it been rescinded; thankfully, it is now being brought back on board.
Gangs are a massive problem. I have several in my constituency, one of which actually has a MySpace page. I ask the Minister to give me guidance. If I can prove a definitive link between members of that gang and criminal activity, will he take steps to get that page removed from the MySpace website? So far as I can see, the page projects that gang, which I am not prepared to name, as a cool network of friends, although I should point out that it has a rest in peace memorial to one of its members, who was knifed to death in Mitcham last year.
The reality is that those gangs of teenagers dovetail neatly into the local drugs economy, which the theft of iPods, mobiles and other such low-level crime often feeds. We have asked why young people are joining gangs. It is clearly a highly complex issue, but there is no doubt that the rise in statutory overcrowding in housing means that far more children are not in their homes when they are not in school and are therefore hanging around on the streets, rather than playing on computers at home or meeting their friends at their homes, which is what used to happen. As a result, children growing up on some of our estates are far more likely to be in bigger groups of friends, which can become more gang-related as the lowest-common-denominator behaviour seems to prevail.
This issue is a concern, and I share the view expressed today that we need to look more seriously at behaviour patterns in the summer months. Examination of the youth justice system shows that the population of young offender institutions rises in the winter months. That
increase perhaps emanates from crimes that were committed in spring and summer months, but which take time to work through the system. So there is hard evidence to suggest that the more that we give young people to do during the summer months, particularly when they are out of school, the better.
I want briefly to discuss how all those issues impact on my constituency. I noted with interest the comments of my colleague the hon. Member for Tooting (Mr. Khan). I fundamentally disagree with his analysis of the crime-related problems that we see across Wandsworth; however, I am probably best off confining my comments to my constituency. My constituents are concerned at the fact that our borough has some 80 fewer trained officers with arresting powers than we had a decade ago. Those numbers are being replenishedbut with police community support officers. We welcome PCSOs of themselves. Everybody recognises that they have a valuable role to play in policing our streets and in improving links with our communities, particularly with schools. Given that a third of mugging victims are secondary school kids, and that half of those muggings are probably carried out by such children, we can see that the relationship between local police and schools is probably one of the most important in the whole community.
PCSOs have a vital role to play, but we have become reliant on them as a resource, which I find questionable. I hear the statistics bandied about on how many officers there are across London, but we have not seen more arresting officers in Wandsworth. We have some 80 fewer officers who can arrest people for committing crimes than we had a decade ago. I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman is not in his place to respond if he disagrees with me. He said that the problem was the formula, but in that case, as an MP, I should challenge that formula. It is perverse that we should have fewer arresting officers and that the formula does not take better account of the demographics. Wandsworth has the youngest demographic of any London borough and London has the youngest demographic of any part of the country. Young people are far less likely to report crime, so my borough suffers disproportionately more from under-reporting, but that is not reflected in the formula. We should match police resources with where they are needed, but if we do that solely on recorded numbers without considering the reasons why crime is not reported, we are kidding ourselves if we think that the resources are going to the right places.
Another example is the recent announcement of additional PCSOs for some wards. As we have heard, the standard model for a safer neighbourhood team is the 1-2-3 model of one sergeant, two constables and three PCSOs. However, for some wards, generally those with more than 14,000 residents, the model is expanded, with six PCSOs. We have had some of those extra PCSOs in three of my wards in Putney, Roehampton and Southfields. However, they do not include Roehampton, the only ward that has had a murder in it in the past six months. That ward also has Europes largest council estate and is isolated on the edge of Richmond park, so it does not get police cars passing on their way to deal with other crimes in London.
Mr. Slaughter: There is always something surreal about hearing Wandsworth Tories protest about lack of resources. Wandsworth gets a huge advantage under the area cost adjustment, as it gets some £22 million more than it deserves. Why does not the council put some money in if there are real concerns, as other councils are doing?
Justine Greening: Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that having paid our part of the policing precept and getting fewer police officers, we should have to fund more officers through the local taxpayer?
Justine Greening: Wandsworth council is working closely with the police to make the case for more resources. The reduction in police officers in my area is not a gap that the council should have to plug because Wandsworth taxpayers are not getting good value for money after it has been handed over to the Mayor. It is not acceptable to take officers away from an area and expect the council to plug the gap. Apparently, it is okay for some areas to have fewer officers. I mentioned Roehampton, which has several crime issues. People from the gang I just mentioned have been seen on the local estate, which already has a gang, but it is worrying if it is now linking up with the bigger gang based in Wandsworth. As I said, the estate does not have passing police cars able to respond quickly, but the area has the bare minimum complement of safer neighbourhood officers compared to other wards. That is ludicrous.
My local inspector is responsible for looking after policing in Putney, Roehampton and Southfields. He could resolve matters if he were able to reallocate his PCSOs and constables to Roehampton, but that is not possible. He can move his officers temporarily, but he cannot reallocate them permanently.
That is ludicrous. We are always talking about intelligence-led policing, but no one seems to want to rely on the intelligence of local police inspectors. That is a huge problem, because my inspector can put resources into the Roehampton estates only as and when he can justify doing so. The result is that that ward does not have the police officers that it needs, who can take responsibility for dealing with what is happening there and develop clear links with the community. If that were to happen, it might be possible for them to tackle crime in the area over the long term.
Many of my constituents do not feel safe, either in their homes or when they are out. I make no apologies that that is not what contributors to the debate are meant to say. I know that we are all supposed to say that everything in London is rosy, but many of my constituents have given up reporting serious crimes. That is not necessarily because they think that the police are not interested, but because they are scared about what will happen if they do report crimes.
The safer neighbourhood model of beat policing can be very successful, but the problem is that, in those areas of London where they are most needed, the safer neighbourhood teams and panels do not work. The
one in Roehampton has broken down because residents know that gang members go to the meetings. As a result, they feel unsafe and are simply not prepared to get involved. Some of my constituents who reside on the Alton estate are not prepared even to be seen talking to police officers. They do not want officers to knock on their doors because they are scared of reprisals.
Those are genuine problems, and obviously I am not happy about them. It might be argued that local people should be able to go and talk to the police, and it would be nice if they felt that they could, but they do not feel that. It is clear that we need to find more sophisticated ways to develop safer neighbourhoods in those very difficult areas where people are scared to get involvedeven though that is what they have to do if they are to help the police help them.
Finally, we should not forget the impact that crime has on small businesses and economic regeneration. It is a blight that impacts shopkeepers as well as residents. The people who run shops in shopping parades such as the one in Danebury avenue in my constituency are very worried about the levels of crime that they face. Their problems are the same as those faced by residents, which means that shopkeepers are scared about what might happen to them if they make a stand.
For example, one local shopkeeper caught a person shoplifting, and told a policeman who happened to be walking past. The officer held the suspect in his grip, and asked the shopkeeper what she wanted him to do. He was prepared to take a statement, but the shopkeeper told him to let the suspect go as she was scared about what might happen to her if she went ahead with a prosecution. She knew that the person involved was a member of the local gang, and that he would not be alone the next time he visited her shop. On the contrary: he would have many others with him, and she knew that, even if she called the police, they would not arrive in time to prevent her from being badly beaten up and her business trashed.
I am not sorry to have been less than consensual this afternoon, because I know that many problems exist. It is not my duty to spend my time reassuring residents in my constituencyrather, I must represent the concerns that they put to me. That is what I have tried my best to do today, and I hope that I have succeeded in making the Minister aware of them.
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|