Crime, over the past few years, has increasingly become a problem in Britain. Crime statistics bulletins from the Office for National Statistics show that the number of offences committed and recorded by police in England and Wales has increased from 3.7 million in 2014 to 5.3 million in 2017. In that time, police grant reports published by the Home Office show that the police budget has been cut from £8 billion to £7.3 billion, a cut of £0.7 billion.
With briefing papers from the House of Commons Library showing that since 2010 the number of serving police officers has fallen from 171,600 to 126,252 officers in September of 2017, equating to a decrease of 12.4%.This leads to the question of what can be done to help reduce and prevent crime?
The Government has recently released its Serious Violence Strategy and this is a good step forward in helping reduce Britain’s problem with crime, and a number of promising commitments have been made . As of October 2017, the Home Office has set up a community fund to help local communities and organisations tackle crime. Currently out of the 367 bids made for funding, 47 have been approved and received £500,000 of funding. Furthermore, under the violent crime strategy, the amount of funding available was increased to £760,000 and there are plans for the home office to make up to £1 million available to be added to the fund in 2018 /19 and 19/20.
Also, in the strategy, there is a pledge to invest £600,000 in project Arachnid, an online piece of software that authorities can deploy across websites, chat services and forums to instantly detect and remove illegal content. Commitments are also made to ensure that the National Police Chiefs Council’s (NPCC) work in producing and circulating advice to police, fire and ambulance services to help ensure a standardised response and procedure for responding to the increased risk of acid attacks.
The measures in the Serious Violence Strategy are a start, but, only a start in helping to reduce Britain ’s problem with crime that has become increasingly prevalent in recent years. The government has in no uncertain terms failed to address the problem in recent years that we need a hybrid response to crime and to quote the ex-prime minister Tony Blair we need to be “Tough on crime, Tough on the causes of crime”. In short, we need to prevent individuals from being socialised into criminal backgrounds or behavioural patterns but, fundamentally, we need to ensure that we strengthen our abilities to detect, locate and arrest offenders.
It is foolish to say there is one solid definite reason for the rise in crime witnessed in recent years but, instead, what we have is a number of factors in play here.number of factors are in play here. We cannot neglect the fact that successive Governments, in recent times, have not properly put in place and funded community initiatives and projects adequately, as well as this, neglecting training for those who interact with children to help identify those who are at risk of committing or becoming involved with crime.. However, as I’ve said this is partially remedied by the government’s good work on the violent crime strategy.
Nevertheless, as a Conservative party member, I value my parties ‘tough of crime’ image and that's something that has been shattered and from a party-political standpoint it is terrible for the party. That is where my suggestion comes in, at the head of this article I laid out the cuts that have been made to police numbers and the policing budget. We need to re-bolster the strength of our police forces, so it can not only have a strong and meaningful presence on our streets but also to elevate current strains within the force itself.
How can we do that?
Simple, replace the £0.7 billion that has been cut from the police budget. I said this was a simple solution and it may seem like an unrealistic one to suggest or a government to deliver upon , except I see this as an entirely realistic.
During the Brexit referendum of 2016, the official Vote Leave campaign stated in their campaign literature that if we were to leave the EU that we could “stop sending £350 million every week to Brussels and instead spend it on our priorities”. However, this figure was misleading to voters as it was proven to be the gross figure of UK contributions. In a letter, Sir Andrew Dilnot the Chair of the UK Statistics Authority confirmed that the “UK’s gross contributions to the EU in 2014 were £19.1 billion, according to the latest official statistics available.”
So, what is my proposal?
The official leave campaign made the argument that the money we save from not being an EU member state could be ploughed into the NHS in its entirety. I along with others see the NHS as an organisation that we as a nation desperately need to work on and reform, but this was simply a suggestion from the campaign and not a policy from any government, however recently in a interview with Laura Kuenssberg Mrs May stated “we leave the European Union, we'll no longer be spending vast sums of money, year in and year out, sending that money to the European Union, so there will be money available here in the UK to spend on our priorities like the NHS and schools."
I accept there is public pressure to put the so-called Brexit dividend into the NHS, however, this ignores grants that the EU currently pays out to the UK such as the Agricultural grant that Michael Gove has confirmed will continue till 2020. We can't be entirely sure if other such grants will be paid out by the UK government post-Brexit however, in any event, I see it as unlikely that all grants will be continued post Brexit. This frees up a block of money from which the £0.7 billion to help plug the gap in the police budget may be taken from. Regardless of whether this is how the money to plug the hole in the policing budget comes from. It's still a hole that needs to be plugged because if we continue to take a one-dimensional approach to tackling crime we as a nation will be fighting a losing battle and that will cost lives.
Jamie is a student at the University of Salford and a Conservative Party member.