This week's release of the crime statistics for England and Wales paint a bleak picture. They brought to bear some of our concerns and vindicated many of our warnings. I by no means welcome this. The police recorded crime statistics show a 4% overall decline. This should obviously be welcomed; police officers are doing a good job in difficult circumstances and despite the criticisms, levelled by this government, are continuing to bring crime down.
What is worrying is that this downward trend is beginning to flat-line and what is of even greater concern is the, not unexpected, rise in burglary and robbery. Despite the rather bizarre separation between burglary and other household thefts (that is pilfering from a garage, garden shed, etc.) both are on the up; this is exactly the kind of crime you would expect to go up during times of economic hardship. This is exactly the sort of crime we warned the Home Office would go up over the coming years and precisely the kind of crime you need police officers on the streets to prevent.
When robbery is up and in particular knife related crime is in the ascendance you have to ask some tough questions. Such as is this really the time to take 34,000 officers and police staff out of the system? These statistics show that police have made huge progress over the past decade, why reverse all that hard work by taking officer numbers back decades? The last time there was an officer exodus of this magnitude was during the Second World War when thousands of officers volunteered for the army.
Every year we debate the validity and recording methods used to record crime statistics; but whichever way you cut it, these stats point toward a gloomy horizon. The Home Office say it is "still too early to be confident there has been a real change", when the next quarter's figures come in having taken on board the disturbances in August I don't think anyone will be in any doubt which way crime is going.
Unfortunately these crimes are also the crimes that inspire the most fear in people as they are the most visible. We alluded to these crimes in our advertising campaigns not out of gimmickry but to make our politicians realize that this was a real threat. Fear of crime can be just as damaging as crime itself. This is the last thing a fragile economy needs and that is why the Federation of Small Businesses, London First and London Chamber of Commerce wrote to the Home Secretary back in August to call for a rethink on the savage police cuts. The recovery needs confidence and confidence comes from security and security comes from the officers who walk the beat.
These statistics are not earth shattering but they are heading in the wrong direction. You will not hear the Home Office jump up and down about this, you will not hear many government ministers shout about it either. The reason being that as of next year that responsibility will be devolved to the incoming Police and Crime Commissioners I fear you will see an abdication of responsibility on this important issue until that time comes.
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